DEM grants N.S. administrator permit for solar project on his land

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town Administrator Gary Ezovski’s plans to install an 840-kilowatt solar farm on land he owns off of Greenville Road moved forward this week, with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management approving a wetlands application for the project.

While relatively small, Ezovski’s solar project sits on land adjacent to the lots where Green Energy Development has proposed building a 38.4 megawatt array.

Developer Econox Renewables of Winchester, Mass. reportedly plans to clear 7.2 acres of trees from Ezovski’s land on lots totaling around 30 acres to the east of Greenville Road. The properties are listed under Grand Banks Commerce Park, LLC, a Slatersville-base company owned by the administrator.

A DEM permit for insignificant wetlands alterations related to the project was issued on Friday, Feb. 7.  The farm has been in the works for about a year, and the Planning Board granted preliminary approval to Ezovski’s solar farm in July. Narragansett Electric Co. obtained an easement over the lots in August for a distribution system, according to town property records, and in October, Econox obtained a zoning variance in an unanimous vote.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission has also weighed in, issuing an advisory opinion last May stating that Ezovski’s role as town administrator did not conflict with his interest in the project. The decision noted that none of the decision-making bodies involved report to, or are appointed by, the administrator.

Ezovski’s lots, which span around 19 acres and 11.6 acres respectively, sit on either side of a 10-acre parcel owned by Narragansett Electric.  To their immediate east is a 122.7 acre lot owned by Ralph and Muriel Ferra, where Green Energy hopes to install 12 acres of solar as part of a larger project totaling 38.4 megawatts.

The smaller solar project will be built on around 3.2 acres on the south side of the current power lines.

Construction of Green Energy’s project, meanwhile, will require clear-cutting of some 200 acres on Whortleberry Hill, work that reportedly began last week even as residents questioned the plan at a series of public hearings.  The Planning Board will continue to hear from residents as the Green project works through the final master plan, with the next hearing scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20.

Ezovski’s solar project will also require final approval from the Planning Board. According to reports, construction of that 840-kilowatt array will take about four months, with the project expected to go online by next spring.

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