Press box withdrawn, seven approvals at Rochester Town Meeting

Nov 18, 2019

ROCHESTER — One article at a Nov. 18 Special Town Meeting to install a press box at Old Rochester Regional High School was withdrawn, and the other seven passed in 19 minutes.

The only comment on any of the articles was from two residents looking for clarification on the two articles that would give the town a chance to set up agreements for payments from solar companies instead of taxes.

When it came to the first agreement for a solar array at 61 Mendell Road, Planning Board member Ben Bailey wanted to know “what are we giving up and what are we getting?” when the Selectmen negotiate for the town.

Town Counsel, Blair Bailey explained that the town will always get the “full and fair tax value” for the property and that a PILOT can’t be for less than that.

The lawyer explained that the town may lose a little bit of fluctuation in payment from year to year, but that the project also eliminates the ability for the solar developer to abate taxes.

Another commenter asked if the town would get more from the new agreement than when the land in question was chapter land, and used for recreational or agricultural purposes.

Blair Bailey clarified that the town would get more in payments for the land than it did before.

The commenter also wanted to know if there was “any way of guaranteeing that what we get from the PILOT is more than from the tax bills?”

The lawyer was confident that the town would get more. And with those two clarifications, the motion on the Mendell Road PILOT and another PILOT for a solar project on Rochester Memorial School passed unanimously.

When the citizen’s petition to install a press box at the high school was presented, Justin Shay, president of the Old Rochester Regional Athletic Boosters Club which championed the measure, asked that it be withdrawn from consideration.

Shay explained after the meeting that he had received a legal opinion from the state earlier in the day that the article’s funding mechanism would not work.  

He said the town had agreed to collect donations toward the project from anyone who wanted to support the cause.

Town Meeting’s 54 or so voters also approved articles that will fund expansion of the Senior Center parking lot, install new shaded picnic tables at Dexter Lane Ball Park, contribute $50,000 for a dump sander truck for the Highway Department and modernize the town tax maps.