UPDATE: Industrial Solar Operation Proposed on Manchaug Pond Hillside

Update posted April 19, 2018

Proposed Industrial Solar Operation proposed on 88 acre parcel stretching from Aldrich Mill Pond to Manchaug Pond’s northern hillside.

The public hearing presentations and question and answer sessions have passed with the next step approaching with the Annual Town Meeting, May 14th, 7:00 p.m. at the Sutton MS/High School Auditorium, Boston Road.

Sutton voters will decide the fate of an 88 acre parcel in the Manchaug Pond watershed stretching from 44 Old Mill Road, east to 226 Putnam Hill Road and two other parcels, Dewitt Road and Carr Street, which are also up for consideration as commercial solar districts.

– A “NO” vote will continue the current R-1 (Residential-Rural) Zoning with respect to solar and maintain the low-taxed Chapter 61A agricultural land use in place protecting the fields, forest, wetlands and streams, and the greater wildlife corridor from development.

– A “YES” vote will make each parcel part of a “floating” commercial/industrial use  Solar Photovoltaic Overlay District regardless of current residential – rural and suburban zoning. The Manchaug Pond hillside could be Sutton’s first industrial-sized, commercial solar operation located in a rural-residential neighborhood and locked in to a 25 year lease with options to extend to 35 years.

Currently, Sutton property owners are allowed to install solar projects up to 250 kW – about 1 acre – anywhere in town. The project for 44 Old Mill/226 Putnam Hill Roads is currently planned at 20 acres, the size of 15 football fields, with portions visible from the lake, campgrounds, and Old Mill Road.

The old real estate mantra, “Location, location, location” applies. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) “strongly discourages locations that result in significant loss of land and natural resources, including farm and forest land, and encourages rooftop siting, as well as locations in industrial and commercial districts, or on vacant, disturbed land. Significant tree cutting is problematic because of the important water management, cooling, and climate benefits trees provide.”
    “Model Zoning for the Regulation of Solar Energy Systems” Dec 2014.

Be informed:

  1. Watch on  Sutton Cable TV the April 9th Planning Board Public Hearing or at least the April 10th Finance & Warrant Committee.
  2. Review the  proposed commercial solar plans for your neighborhood and the current draft warrant articles.
  3. Check/subscribe to the town website for the final articles. Both the Planning Board and Finance & Warrant Committee asked for re-writes of the citizen’s petitions.
  4. Attend and vote at Sutton Town Meeting, May 14, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Sutton MS/HS Auditorium on Boston Road.
Posted April 8, 2018.

Parcels at 44 Old Mill and 226 Putnam Hill Roads, Sutton

A private land owner is planning a large industrial-scale solar array for the hill north of Manchaug Pond within the watershed. If allowed, the two parcels to be cleared and developed stretch from 44 Old Mill Road to 226 Putnam Hill Road encompassing a large portion of currently forest land and the smaller corn field at Putnam Hill and Lackey Roads. Specifically the proposal involves an amendment to the Town’s Zoning Bylaws to be voted on at the May 14th town meeting which reads: Amendment 5.  “Add 75+ acres at 226 Putnam Hill Road and 13+ acres at 44 Old Mill Road to the Solar Photovoltaic Overlay District (SPOD) where large ground mounted solar systems over 250 kw are allowed.

Monday, April 9, 2018, beginning at 7:10 p.m. a public hearing by the Sutton Planning Board on the 3rd floor of the Sutton Town Hall, 4 Uxbridge Road, Sutton will offer an opportunity to learn more about the project as part of 7 amendments under consideration which look to allow and/or regulate marijuana dispensaries and the addition of three new commercial, industrial solar operations with a combined 239 acres in Sutton.

226 Putnam Hill Road north of Manchaug Pond

The project would most likely involve the loss of the agricultural land and part of the watershed wildlife corridor with the cutting of forest from the 75+ acre Putnam Hill Road field/wood lot through the wooded 13+ acre parcel connecting to Old Mill Road just north of Manchaug and Aldrich Mill Ponds to install “large ground mounted solar systems.”  As we know, human activities and land uses within a watershed directly effect the water quality of our water resources –  wetlands, streams, ponds and lakes and public and private wells. Land in a natural, forested state offers optimum conditions for clean water and little to no invasives whereas the activities and just plain living by each of us bring roads, homes, and landscapes where run-off from impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways and roads can cause erosion and sedimentation; and where septic systems, pets and livestock, gardens, fields, lawns, and landscapes can bring animal wastes, bacteria, fertilizers, and pesticides directly as non-point sources of pollution. (Check out our Manchaug Pond Care Guide to do your part!)  Sutton Conservation Commission would likely be involved in the construction process in order to protect wetland/stream areas on the property and keep runoff from Manchaug Pond and smaller Aldrich Mill Pond.  Topography of the hillside notes an elevation of 740′ at Putnam Hill Road sloping some 200 feet down to the lake’s 540’. The Manchaug Pond Foundation has already worked to addressed the heavy volume of runoff from this hillside with the installation of a catch basin, sediment traps and swale at three sites on Manchaug Road securing engineering and monies through two EPA/DEP Non-point Source Pollution grants with the Town of Sutton cooperating.

Topographical/contour map of area north of Manchaug Pond

Manchaug Pond Foundation
 With the potential for negative impacts from construction projects and human activity to the water quality of Manchaug and Aldrich Mill Ponds a strong reality, the property owner, solar company and our town boards must insist on plans and structures which protect our water resources. Such things as seeding exposed soils to prevent erosion, vegetative buffers and swales to capture run-off from impervious surfaces, maintenance of a natural landscaped border along property lines to maintain the natural viewshed from the lake and the scenic, rural character of the Manchaug watershed, and a future de-commissioning plan to remove all structures if/when the solar facility is phased out to eliminate potential future pollutants.
 Mark you calendar to be involved in the process: April 9th and May 14th.  Non-residents who are interested can also attend but will be required at town meeting to sit in a designated section to the side.
Visit the Manchaug Pond Foundation website for information on how you can protect our water resources in your landscape, events listing, and to contact us,  join and support our efforts together.

Manchaug Pond Foundation