OTISFIELD — Eleven months after voters approved a moratorium to pause solar development in Otisfield, the town’s planning board presented its proposed ordinance to townspeople during a public hearing last Thursday.

Otisfield Selectman Rick Micklon addresses voters about adopting a solar ordinance before a temporary moratorium expires next month. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

A special town meeting will be held tonight for an up or down vote on the ordinance at the Otisifeld Community Hall on SR 121 at 7 p.m. If voters reject the ordinance, any solar developer will be able to submit plans for solar farm construction with no local oversight, as the moratorium permanently expires after Feb. 23.

The ordinance can be viewed and downloaded from Otisfield’s website.

About 30 residents, including the planning and select boards, attended a public hearing on the ordinance at the community hall last Thursday to voice and hear comments on the proposed ordinance.

Reception to the ordinance was mixed, with even those who support it questioning some provisions, particularly one that limits development for new commercial projects to 20 acres each, with a maximum of 100 acres of land in Otisfield be used to produce solar energy. Some residents felt that regulations were also too restrictive for residential arrays, citing references that only single-family residences were included and that some homeowners might need to install systems outside of smaller building lot footprints.

Before the hearing ended, Otisfield’s three-member board of selectmen individually addressed voters, urging them to approve the ordinance and inviting them to participate in the process to improve it as soon as it takes effect.


Resident George Gallant raised the issue of limiting allowable property, along with several elements he felt were lacking. He did not like the writing, and said his perception is that it was based more on emotion than facts. He pointed to language limiting how solar panels materials are used, how they are constructed, the 100-acre limit and setbacks, and also to statistics he felt important for the public to know.

Otisfield resident George Gallant speaks during a public hearing about the town’s proposed solar ordinance last week. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“I am generally opposed to this ordinance,” he said during his first time at the microphone. “I read it as something that is very difficult for an organization to propose a solar farm in town and comply with all the little things.

“No place in here do I see a nice number about square footage of solar farm as it applies to an acre of land … nowhere it says how many acres of land or how many kilowatts of power are needed to supply energy to a town of our size.”

Gallant also wanted the planning board to inform townspeople what would the consequences be if the ordinance fails to pass during special town meeting.

The answer was that future projects would be allowed under state and federal regulations and Otisfield would have no local control.

Otisfield’s moratorium was proposed after one solar development project, Nutting Ridge Community Solar, was approved in 2021. At the time there was no town-mandated procedure in place to give Otisfield local control over it.


Before any additional applications could be submitted, officials called for a temporary moratorium, which was approved at a special town meeting on Feb. 24, 2022.

The planning board was assigned to write a commercial ordinance before Otisfield’s annual town meeting last June, but it could not be completed within four months and the moratorium was extended in May, August and November as the board continued its work.

Planners worked with Contract Planner David Galbraith through Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments to write the ordinance, and used as guidance ordinances that have been enacted in Bethel, Freeport, Lovell and Mechanic Falls. The document was vetted by the town’s attorney after its first draft and then again before the final document was released for public review.

Planning Board Vice Chair Scott Arn responded to Gallant’s questions on acreage and energy projections.

“We did calculations,” he said. “There are specifications of maximum allocation of 100 acres of total solar development in the town. Those are based on average predicted output from fully populated solar arrays. One hundred acres is sufficient to power three towns the size of Otisfield.”

Gallant responded that the data used was generic in nature and likely included projections for energy production in regions such as the southwest, which has a much higher rate of sunlight than the northeast. He also said the ordinance as written could potentially limit use of solar energy in the future as demand grows.


Throughout the hearing people expressed disappointment with the 20-acre array and 100-acre limits. Planning Board Secretary Sarah Burnham explained that while Otisfield’s total land area is 25,552 acres and pointed out that only a small portion of land in town has proper access, direction and elevation to support solar development.

Arn, as well as Otisfield selectmen, informed Gallant and others who said they wanted specific parts of the ordinance amended that it could be done at any time once it is in place, but no approving it would bring consequences.

“I am not going to comment on the ordinance,” Selectman Lenny Adler said during his comment time. “I know how hard it is to do an ordinance like this. I would like to make a point of order. A statement was made that selectmen should amend this ordinance. Selectmen cannot. The only way it can be amended is to go through a hearing process, like this, and then a town meeting vote.

“If this doesn’t work, and it’s a first step, it’s not difficult to amend it. If we enact this one week from tonight and the day after that someone finds something that’s incorrect, we can amend it, and start immediately. It is not permanent.”

“If at special town meeting this is voted up, from what I’m hearing tonight, we still have work to do,” Selectmen and Deputy Codes Officer/Building Inspector Rick Micklon told residents.  “I hope that we do that and that many in this room will join us. ”

“One thing important to mention,” said Select Board Chair Hal Ferguson. “You can only extend a moratorium for up to one year. This moratorium went in effect on the 23rd of February.

“We can only vote up or down next week. We can make necessary changes after, but at least we will have made a start. If it is voted down, any applications for solar development that come in after Feb. 23 will get no local oversight.”

Comments are not available on this story.