NORTH SMITHFIELD – Members of the North Smithfield Zoning Board have unanimously approved a special use permit for a 977-kilowatt solar project on a property owned by Holliston Sand Company.
The lot, a 47-acre subdivision of the longtime industrial sand manufacturer’s much larger property, bordered on the west by Slatersville Reservoir, has been utilized for the company’s gravel operations, leaving it with few alternative uses and no vegetation.
“This is the intent of solar in the town of North Smithfield,” said John Pagliarini, an attorney representing Holliston before the board this week, pointing to the emphasis on minimizing scenic and environmental impact in the town’s ordinance.
Pagliarini noted that soil erosion control methods such as added vegetation, put in place to accompany the solar array, will actually improve the environment.
“This is, in effect, a reclamation project,” he said.
“We have a combination of vacant and forested land,” said Zoning Board Chairman Robert Najarian prior to approving the request.
“The applicant’s attorney kind of made a compelling argument with regard to the applicability of this property for the very ordinance that we’re talking about,” Najarian said. “It would appear to be a good use for land that’s already been cleared, already been used.”
The ground-mounted array will generate power for on-site consumption through a net-metering system, encompassing roughly 4.89 acres of the 47 acre lot. Pagliarini said that his client is an, “extreme user of electricity,” with “hundreds of thousands a year in electrical costs.”
The attorney noted that his client had to clear several hurdles before arriving before the Zoning Board this week. Related construction of a 9,333-square-foot commercial building, where the company hopes, in part, to store equipment, required creation of a major land development plan.
Planners also requested that Holliston obtain the town’s official abandonment of nearby Tifft Road, a paper street once the subject of legal dispute with abutters that will be used to access the array, and National Grid required equipment replacement to connect the system.
Planners finally gave their positive recommendation of the project in December.
“It has been a long process,” Pagliarini said.
The property is in a water supply overlay district, and developers said the project will have no negative effect on water quality.
Noting improvements to the environment, zoners agreed the project meets the exact intent of North Smithfield’s solar ordinance.
“I just think it’s a great use for that property,” said Zoning Board Scott Martin. “It’s going to definitely enhance that area and help in the water district. I think it’s a great project.”