Farmington to hold public hearing on solar project

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Farmington residents will have the chance to provide feedback on a proposed 490-acre solar farm off Route 2 on Monday, as the town’s planning board is working to move the project away from a residential area.

A public hearing, followed by a regular planning board meeting, is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Farmington Town Office.

“I think a project of this size should have some public input,” said Clayton King, chairman of the planning board. “If nobody shows up, nobody shows up.”

The proposal from Florida-based NextEra Energy is for a $110 million, 77-megawatt solar farm that would include over 300,000 panels to be located off Route 2 near Hovey Road and Horn Hill Road, including a large portion on land leased from Sandy River Farm.

The company has said that if built, the project would be the largest solar farm in New England, and has touted the jobs, tax revenue and potentially lower energy costs it would bring to Farmington.

Still, some neighbors have expressed concern the project would adversely affect their views and property values.

There is no timeline for the planning board to make a decision on applications NextEra has made for the necessary permits, but King said the board is still waiting on a few items and it is unlikely any action would be taken on the project Monday.

He said the board is waiting for an assessment from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission as well as documentation of a bond the board has asked the company to hold to plan for decommissioning costs should the farm fail or become irrelevant.

They’re also trying to convince NextEra to change its design of the project to move panels away from Stanwood Park Circle, a residential area where people have complained about the close proximity the panels would have to their homes.

“We’ve encouraged them to seek an alternative on the other side of the road so we could take care of those folks,” King said. “It’s going to degrade their property, there’s no question about that. They told us they would look at it, so who knows how far that will go.”

During the regular planning board meeting to follow the public hearing, King said NextEra plans to present a video on the visual affects it anticipates with the project and a sample of the type of panel they will use.

On the visual impacts, King said the town doesn’t have hard evidence a solar project would degrade neighboring property values, but he said he understands the concerns of those who live at Stanwood Park Circle. There are about a dozen homes in the neighborhood.

A solar farm on Morrison Heights Road on Feb. 9 in Wayne. Farmington residents will have the chance to provide feedback on a proposed 490-acre solar farm off Route 2 on Monday.(Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file)

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