Solar project near Holliston Sand gets green light from Zoning

Solar project near Holliston Sand gets green light from Zoning

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A 6.22-megawatt solar farm proposed near Holliston Sand Company in the area of Slatersville Reservoir moved one step closer to operations on Tuesday when it received a green light from the Zoning Board to move forward under a special use permit.

The proposal was submitted by Turning Point Energy, a national company operating locally as TPE Rhode Island Solar Holdings LLC. Attorney Richard Nadeau, representing the developer, told The Breeze the company hopes to break ground on the project next year but still needs to receive preliminary and final approval from the Planning Board.

“We’re expecting spring of next year, but it’s all in the hands of the Planning Board,” he said.

According to Nadeau, the project would be located on property covering a little more than 100 acres, though not all of the land would be used for the project. An initial application heard by the Planning Board in February indicated land used for the solar arrays would be approximately 40 acres. Town ordinance mandates any solar development over six acres receive a special use permit from the Zoning Board.

Nadeau told Zoning Board members the applicant is in discussions with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management regarding a nearby environmentally contaminated property, including ensuring RIDEM maintains access to the site. The property, once the site of landfill, would not be used for the solar project, he said.

Also complicating the project is the landlocked nature of the proposed property, which the company plans to purchase from private landowners. The property, portions of which are owned by William King along with members of the Stone family, has been the subject of a legal dispute related to events dating back nearly two decades. Property owners claim Holliston Sand Company and the adjacent Brookside Equestrian Center have taken over a former paper street once used as an access point as part of sand mining operations, leaving nearby landowners no access to their land except by boat.

“It’s been a very difficult area because of the access for people,” said Steve Bator, whose wife, Cheryl Stone Bator, plans to sell 7.5 acres to the company as part of the solar project.

Bator added the project will provide additional tax revenue for the town and give ratepayers the opportunity to save money on their energy bills by participating in a pilot program allowing them to subscribe to solar power. For landowners, the project offers relief for an area where restricted access and alleged illegal encroachment have been points of contention for many years.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody. It’ll be good for the town because of the tax income they’re going to get,” said Bator.

According to the application, access to the site will be through two properties owned by Alfred and Sandra Caron on Pound Hill Road. Nadeau told Zoning Board members the applicant has negotiated access to the site with surrounding landowners and will use a gravel access road for initial building activities as well as maintenance.

“It is unique in the sense that there is no access other than what was negotiated by the applicant because it was landlocked,” he added.