Rochester won't buy Rounseville Road property slated for solar project

Aug 7, 2018

Selectmen have declined to exercise the town's right of first refusal to purchase acreage held as farmland under the state's Chapter 61A provisions, clearing the way for a large-scale solar development on Rounseville Road.

With next to no discussion, Selectmen voted at their Aug. 6 meeting to pass on having the town purchase land at 453 Rounseville Road.

The land is owned by Gibbs Bray of Marion. A lawyer for Bray notified selectmen on June 19, of his client's intent to have the land converted from agricultural status to commercial.

Under Chapter 61A, which provided Bray with a tax reduction while the land was used for farming, any plans change the property's agricultural status gave Rochester the right of first refusal to purchase the land.

Under his company, Plumb Solar LLC, Bray intends to lease 17.18 acres of the 83.10-acre Rounseville Road property  to 978 Solar Development, LLC, a subsidiary of Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. of Oakland, California, for 20 years.

The Rochester Planning Board issued an amended Special Permit on May 8, for a large-scale photovoltaic development at the site.

"Yes, we approved it after a lengthy hearing process that took over a year," Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson said.

Johnson said that Bray is now free to begin work on the photovoltaic field, including clearing a significant number of trees.

Johnson said the process was contentious at times. Through the hearing process, neighbors voiced complaints over habitat loss, property values and other concerns. One abuttor has even filed a complaint in Plymouth Superior Court to stop construction, Johnson said. However, Bray can have work done on the property while the case makes it way through the court, he said.

Johnson said when this solar installation goes in it will be the second biggest in town, after the City of New Bedford's 28.5-acre 150,000 panel solar field at Little Quittacus Pond.