Solar panel project in Naugatuck may get vote Feb. 16

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Chris Gagnon, an engineer, presents revised plans for a solar panel array to the Naugatuck Zoning Commission during a hearing Wednesday at Town Hall. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The Zoning Commission has closed a hearing on an application to develop solar arrays on a meadow near a residential area that has drawn a mixed public response.

TRITEC Americas of California provides solar project development, financing and asset management services for commercial and industrial solar markets, according to its website.

The company is seeking a special permit to build a 1-megawatt solar farm with 3,000 panels on about 12 acres of undeveloped land at 0 Bosco Drive, which is at the end of the private road. The land is zoned residential, and owned by Curtis Bosco and Florence Justino.

The commission can vote on the solar project at its next meeting Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.

The proposal calls for single-axis tracking panels that will follow the sun’s movements, a 12-foot-wide gravel access road around the site, two stormwater management systems, an 8-foot-high standard galvanized fence and a buffer of evergreen trees that would be planted between residential properties, said Chris Gagnon, an engineer from BL Companies who is representing TRITEC Americas.

The application has been approved by the Naugatuck fire and police commissions.

Public works Director James Stewart, the acting borough engineer, stated in a letter to the commission the applicant had addressed some of the engineering concerns. He also recommended some conditions of approval, including the applicant shall provide sediment and erosion control, a landscaping bond and quarterly progress reports to the borough until the project has been completed.

Gagnon said the final stormwater revision met Stewart’s requirements and has his approval.

“This is a legal, developable lot in town,” Gagnon said at the meeting. “Based on the zoning that it’s in, it could be residential, it could have churches, it could have recreation areas, any number of things. All of those developments would require tree clearing to execute that development of the lot.”

Gagnon said the project could be beneficial from an environmental standpoint.

“It is clearing trees for solar, which then does provide some carbon benefit return because it is helping the grid with energy that does not have a carbon footprint,” Gagnon said. “It’s tree clearing for that versus tree clearing for putting in a church, putting in some sort of recreation area. Then it also should be noted that all of those other development options require a lot more pavement, a lot more earthwork.”

Because the development disturbs at least 5 acres, TRITEC Americas will need a permit for stormwater discharge due to construction activities from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, zoning enforcement officer Ed Carter said.

Attorney Joel Green represents Inga and Anthony Oren, owners of an abutting property on Farmstead Lane who oppose the project.

“I just can’t emphasize enough how a massive and intrusive use of property this is,” Green said. “Once again, I urge you to really put yourself in the place of my clients and their neighbors in terms of developing a site so intensely.”

Green said his clients and their neighbors will be able to see a massive solar panel array from their respective property lines. Generating facilities are not permitted uses in a residential zone, he added.

Steven Trinkaus, an engineer from Trinkas Engineering in Southbury, recently submitted a report that states the plan’s revisions do not address the many technical deficiencies of the application and site plans.

Tinkas, who has degree in forestry, said the infiltration basin testing at the site is not appropriate.

“We don’t have data to know these systems will work,” he said, “and if they don’t work, that water is going to adversely affect neighbors to the southwest and to the southeast.”

Stewart, who did not attend the meeting, is set to review Trinkas’ report and the meeting.

Because the hearing is now closed, the commission won’t accept any more new information or testimonies, Carter said.