FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday evening scheduled a special town meeting for Dec. 12 to consider amendments to several ordinances, including subdivisions, site review and zoning.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. downstairs at the Community Center at 127 Middle St.

Amendments are being proposed for Land Use Sections 5 and 10 of the Subdivision and Site Review ordinances because the state enacted laws July 1 that require a long-term affordability covenant for affordable housing developments.

Regarding proposed solar energy system changes in the Zoning Ordinance, Planning Board Chairwoman Judith Murphy said one of the bigger changes is increasing the setback for industrial solar energy systems from 75 to 200 feet.

A new section has been added describing setbacks for commercial solar energy systems with the 75-foot requirement removed.

Zoning Board Chairman Paul Mills said the setback has been a problem since the ordinance was enacted. Even when embedded on the roof of a commercial business the setbacks were unattainable, he said, adding that it’s very rare a commercial building is that far back from the property boundaries.


Selectman Dennis O’Neil asked why the setback requirement for industrial solar energy systems is changed under the new section.

Selectman Joshua Bell said that two years ago during a discussion on a solar array coming to the Farmington Falls Road near the intersection with Davis Road, a 500-foot setback was requested. “Part of that group of 15-20 people wanted 500 feet, that was a little excessive,” he said. “This is a compromise.”

O’Neil questioned why the word “not” was removed from the private residential solar energy systems section, which says it “shall not be subject to private residential solar energy systems section performance standards.”

“I think they want everybody to be buying the right equipment for installation on their property,” Murphy said. “No one wants things that are not meeting the standards of the industry.”

Other changes proposed for commercial and industrial solar energy systems include notifying abutters by certified mail 15 days prior to initial application consideration; requiring an 8-foot fence with locked gate to enclose all ground-mounted systems; and except in certain instances, electrical wires and utility connections be underground. Roof- or wall-mounted commercial solar energy systems are exempt. The Planning Board may make adjustments based on soil conditions, shape and the site’s topography.

One screening requirement section was removed and a more in-depth section added for commercial and industrial energy systems, while a new section for those systems states they are not permitted in the town’s 100-year floodplain.


“I think overall the Zoning Board has done a really good job,” Murphy said, and if it doesn’t work, there can be an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance.

Voters will also consider several other ordinance changes for which copies will be available at the Municipal Building and at the Dec. 12 meeting.

Bell said he was told the Select Board sets the fees for solar energy systems, so another public hearing isn’t required to change them.

He recommended keeping the $50 fee for private solar systems and increasing the $500 fee for commercial and industrial systems to $1,000 and $5,000, respectively, to pay for necessary work by the town and its attorneys, he said.

“Five hundred dollars is a drop in the bucket for a solar farm,” Chairman Matthew Smith said. “Anything big, our lawyer will be going over it.”

Other industries, such as marijuana, are being charged more, Bell said. “They are not nearly the size of these corporations.”


“Even the industrial ones can vary substantially from very small to very large,” Murphy said. “To me the $5,000 doesn’t seem fair.” There may be a small one that’s 20 acres, another that is 600 acres, she said.

O’Neil said fees are not part of the special town meeting, so a decision isn’t needed now.

“I think we should pause, take a breath,” he said. “Think about it and see what we can find out, get additional information.”

The board, by consensus, agreed.

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