WOBURN – As the city council prepares to declare a handful of site changes as major alterations, a Waltham-based solar energy company has recently abandoned plans to build a new access road through a North Woburn solar farm.
At their final rally at City Hall last week, the council voted unanimously to let ECA Solar withdraw without prejudice a request to change several fence lines and the site’s main access point to a new solar power facility by Commerce Way, Atlantic Avenue and New Boston. Street.
According to a memo submitted to the board earlier this month by ECA Solar representative Michael Redding, company officials intend to reconsider the proposal in light of recent comments from the Special Permits Committee. .
“[We] Respectfully withdraw our minor edit request. We plan to revise our plans based on feedback received from city council and will resubmit them in the future,” wrote Redding, who heads the company’s engineering division.
In June 2021, the city council granted the petitioner a special permit to build a solar farm on a 36-acre portion of the IndustriPlex site.
The solar panels will include a smaller 2.45 megawatt facility and a larger farm capable of generating up to 498 kilowatts of electricity. Both green power facilities will be located near a series of new residential developments off New Boston Street by Anderson Regional Transportation Center.
Since the original special permit was issued, ECA Solar officials have been asked by the Woburn Conservation Commission to move sections of the green power facility away from on-site wetlands. To reflect these changes, the petitioner earlier this spring requested permission to revise the special permit to reflect a change to the perimeter security fence and the relocation of a utility pole and streetlight.
The council generally doesn’t object to most changes, but was hesitant to call a “minor change” a proposal to add a new access road through the solar power fields from Atlantic Avenue to at a nearby Passport car park. Originally, access included a paved “apron” where maintenance workers could park while the panels were being serviced.
During a discussion at City Hall on the application earlier this month, members of the Special Permits Committee also concluded that the access road was a major alteration that would require an entirely new process for public audience.
In coming to this conclusion, council referred to a recent memo from Building Commissioner Thomas Quinn, who noted that he considered the requested changes to the site plan to be “substantial” in light of what was originally proposed.
Before voting to allow the petitioner to withdraw, Ward 5 Councilor Darlene Mercer-Bruen asked if council should instead reject the petition to clarify council’s position.
However, according to City Clerk Lindsay Higgins, council would not “turn down” the proposal, but rather declare the proposed changes to be “major amendments”.
In Higgins’ view, the end result of such a vote would amount to allowing the withdrawal, as the petitioner is forced to refile the application or redraw the access road in a manner more consistent with the plan of origin of the site.
“Technically, within the parameters of the order, you’re not refusing a minor modification. You consider this to be a major change and then [vote] triggers what looks like a special permit process,” Higgins explained.