MECHANIC FALLS — Following a joint session Monday evening with the Planning Board, the Town Council reversed itself and voted for a 180-day moratorium on future development of solar power facilities, effective immediately.

Councilors Tarsha Downing, Darrel Young, Cynthia Larrabee and Paula Stotts voted in favor of the moratorium.

Downing, Young and Larrabee had voted against the moratorium request by the Planning Board at the Aug. 2 meeting.

Councilor Rose Aikman, as she did in the earlier vote, abstained due to a possible conflict of interest on a potential project involving alternative energy.

Councilors listened as Planning Board members said ordinances are needed to protect the town aesthetically and financially, since concerns on how much tax revenue is generated when many acres are developed as a solar farm.

The Planning Board has been working on ordinances for solar farms since the August meeting.

Developing ordinances came after two farms received approval: a $5.1 million project off South Main Street approved last year for 14,031 panels on nearly 20 of 37 acres by California-based NextGrid Renewable Energy; and one at 90 North St. approved in June 2021 for 9,288 panels on nearly 10 of 42 acres by New England Solar Garden of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

New England Solar Gardens had also expressed interest in land off Winterbrook Road, near the aquifer that is the source of town water.

Green Lantern Solar of Waterbury, Vermont, has been in contact with the town about constructing a farm on Lewiston Street.

The Planning Board cited that time is needed for legal review of the ordinances, as well as the requirements listed in the town charter for any proposed changes to land use ordinances, including holding a public hearing.

In a related matter the council approved contracting with a new law firm, Preti Flaherty of Portland, on Town Manager Vic Hodgkins’ recommendation.

The firm of Linnell, Choate & Webber in Auburn, which previously represented the town, declined to submit a contract proposal.


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