Wednesday July 25, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Plans have been scuttled to install a large-scale solar array on agricultural land off Seekonk Road.

Harold Shaw intends to sell a portion of his property along Seekonk and Round Hill roads to an unnamed buyer who plans to keep the property as farm land, according to attorneys representing the family. The pending sale constitutes a marked difference from the plans laid out just eight months ago.

"It’s our understanding there is going to be no discernible change" to the land’s present use as a farm, Jessie Deely, a Lee attorney, told the Select Board on Monday.

The board unanimously waived its right of first refusal on the property, and Deely said the buyer intends to retain the agricultural exemption and associated tax break. It’s believed the property will be leased out to a dairy farmer.

Several town officials confirmed the unnamed buyer is not Darien, Conn.-based CTC Electric, the company that previously intended to buy the land.

Last winter, Shaw reached an agreement to sell the property to CTC for the installation of 3- to 4-megawatt solar farm on 19 acres of fenced-off farm land. Formal plans for the $15 million project were never submitted to the town, but it still drew considerable ire from neighbors and others in the town who wanted to retain the scenic views and agricultural land.

The debate led the Select Board to make failed attempts to get the Planning Board to recommend a solar zoning bylaw and to have Town Meeting approve a one-year moratorium on large-scale solar installations. Board members continue to express interest in a solar bylaw.

CTC CEO Eric Roddy didn’t return calls for comment for this story. CTC continues to pursue a number of other parcels in Berkshire County for similar projects.

Shaw, a retired farmer, owns 68 acres and told The Eagle last December that he could no longer afford to farm his land. He said the solar project would be better than subdividing the parcels for new homes. Shaw’s family has owned the property for more than a century, and he apparently intends to keep a portion of the property for his house.

The attorneys representing the Shaws also did not return calls for comment.

Sean Stanton, a farmer and the chairman of the Select Board, had been one of the most vocal critics of the solar proposal. He said he’s pleased by the change of plans.

"Its great," Stanton said. "It’s keeping the property in 61A [agricultural restriction], and the Shaws get what they want; they get their money out of it."

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
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