The decision of the Adams Planning Board on Monday to reject a proposed 6,700-solar panel installation on an 11-acre site on East Road is contrary to the town counsel's advice and impossible to defend. It will be unfortunate if the town has to go to court to be told this.
The project proposed by Apis Energy Corporation falls under the category of a "by-right" use, which means the planners can regulate it, but not prohibit it. The board has been told this by both the town administration and town counsel, and was reminded of it before the meeting by its administrative assistant. Planners then rejected the project unanimously and made it clear they did so on the basis that it was not a by-right use, inviting legal action.
Arguments made against the solar project were flimsy, including the assertion that the panels' electro-magnetic field would pose a health risk as the modest field would not come anywhere near any homes. The springing up of solar installations all over the state undermines the argument that they lower property values, and according to Apis project manager Seth Ginsberg, a home near the site recently sold for more than its assessed value. Apis has promised to address other concerns by building an elevated berm to hide the installation and provided assurances that rainwater runoff from the installation will not cause problems. By contracting with Apis, the town could save about $20,000 a year in electricity costs.
The planning board's stance might be defensible if it was dealing with a Dollar Store or Wal-mart or some other blight against the landscape, but this is a green energy project and an appropriate use of the land. If the board doesn't like its own bylaws it can rewrite them but it can't act without legal standing as it did here.