OTISFIELD — Powhatan Road residents Bill and Pat Griffin have listened and watched as a neighboring mature forest of pines was clear cut to make way for a 20-acre solar farm. Through the summer they could not escape the battering noise of ledge being drilled to anchor frames that will hold 15,000 solar panels. This week they watch as those panels are installed, one by one.

Solar power has come to Otisfield.

With no local ordinance in place for its development and construction, the town had little oversight or influence over the work being done on Powhatan Road.

The local application for Nutting Ridge Community Solar farm was submitted last fall for review under Otisfield’s site plan ordinance; residents were able to ask questions and comment on it during a November, 2020 public hearing. It received its permitting to proceed at the state level. By January 5, 2021 it had cleared the planning board and began work.

Bill and Pat Griffin of Powhatan Road in Otisfield stand at the edge of their property on August 24 as construction on a 20 acre solar farm continues behind them. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

By the Griffins’ account, the developer and construction/management company Sunraise Investments have both been transparent with their plans, listened to their and others’ concerns and have been willing to address them. Rows of buffer trees will be planted and Sunraise will pay for regular testing of the Griffins’ well.

Despite the radical change to their uphill landscape and the headaches caused by excavation and construction, they understand that the community will quickly benefit from solar power joining the grid and that the environmental benefits will be long term. They have resigned themselves to the outcome, which is cheaper, renewable energy.


But after a second energy developer expressed interest in starting another project in the Spurr’s Corner neighborhood, selectmen acted to avoid another solar farm coming to town without local governance. Voters approved a six-month moratorium on solar development at a special town meeting on Feb. 24 of this year, to give the planning board a chance to analyze ordinances from other communities and then write one for Otisfield.

When a draft was not completed before residents could vote on a solar ordinance at annual town meeting in June the moratorium was extended, first in May and then again in August.

Now, Otisfield’s planning board is determined to complete its work on the ordinance, have it vetted by its attorney, schedule a public hearing and bring it to a vote at a special town meeting before the most recent extension expires on Nov. 22.

Much still needs to be determined on the solar ordinance. What will setbacks be? Will there be a cap on total acreage in Otisfield that can be utilized for solar arrays, or on how much energy can be produced? Will there be limits on how much land can be clear cut?

The board has contracted Municipal Contract Planner David Goldbraith through the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments as a consultant to advise on its provisions and fine tune its language.

During their Tuesday meeting, planning board members approved a motion to meet on a weekly basis until the draft is finished.

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