Residents of North Smithfield:
I spoke before the North Smithfield School Committee on July 18, 2022, to enter my objections to agenda item 10, approval of the RFP for the Canopy Parking Lot at the Athletic Complex. I also appeared before them on August 29, 2022 to address my same concerns, which may be viewed on the NS School Committee YouTube feed.
At that meeting, 8/29, it was made clear that solar canopies, per our own Zoning Map and Ordinances are not allowed at the schools, whether they be ground or rooftop mounted. The School Committee understood that any proposed change would necessitate approval by Zoning. The superintendent was tasked to prepare bid specs for enlargement of the parking lot only, as people were well aware that it would not pass zoning. In an article published by The Valley Breeze on 10/20/22, it was reported that the School Committee would pursue alternative means for expanding the lot, other than as part of an agreement with Green Energy. To quote the Superintendent, “As much as I like the thought of solar and the canopy, I do have concerns about the longevity of it.” According to the article, Mr. St.Jean had inquired of another company and was given a quote of $140,000, which had included another 60 parking spaces and the clearing of trees. A potential 35 percent reimbursement from RIDE was also discussed.
Mrs. Meo concurred that additional parking space was all we need.
Fast forward to 4/18/23. The agenda noted discussion regarding the contract for parking lot extension at the Joyce Athletic Complex. The minutes note that Mr. St Jean reached out to URI to discuss their canopied lots. This is not an apple to apples, comparison as many would have you believe. URI moved their canopied lots, so that water near their Fine Arts Complex would not be impacted.
And here we are again. Like the movie Ground Hog Day or if you prefer the game, Wack a Mole, we are now searching for three separate bids, the canopy, re-grading and the provision for 60 more spaces.
Our most precious commodity, water, is under attack in North Smithfield. MST has proposed a new facility, which could negatively impact our water in the Slatersville area and many in that area are highly engaged to fight MST’s appeal to DEM. Another individual in this town, that owns the dams in the reservoir, has diverted a waterway in Slatersville. It is not clear whether or not the necessary permits were obtained through DEM. In addition, a historic water wheel long on display, has been removed from the property.
Lorraine Joubert, a professor in the URI department of Resources Science speaking before the NS Water Supply Review Board in May, urged official to be more proactive on water issues and protecting residents going forward.
I fear that certain town employees and elected officials seek to meet the demands of a few, rather than the town as a whole and that is why we are back to square one on this issue. If we reject MST, we should be against solar canopies for the very same issue: WATER!
The area surrounding NSHS has long been used to farm by the Goodwin Family and is located near Todds Pond, Primrose Pond and the Audubon Fort Wildlife Refuge. Please note that Todds Pond is located within the Blackstone River-West River to Peters River Watershed and Primrose Pond is located within the Woonasquatucket River Watershed.
The United Nations and the EPA have declared August to be National Water Quality Month to bring awareness of the importance of water, to appreciate and protect our water resources, and to make the most of the relatively small amount of fresh water available, worldwide.
What are you doing to protect it?
The below comments are from the joint meeting of the Town Council and School Committee on August 29, 2022
Section 1. Provision for Official Zoning Map and Ordinance.
“The official zoning map which shall be located in the office of the Town Clerk, shall be the final authority as to the current zoning status of land and water areas, building and other structures of the Town.”
Section 5. District Use Regulations
The Town of North Smithfield is divided into 11 Zoning Districts: 4 Residential, 3 Business, 2 Mixed Use, 1 Manufacturing and 1 Open Space. In addition, there are three Overlay Districts: Groundwater Aquifer, Historic and Solar. It is noted that: Overlay District Use Regulations shall take precedence over the regulations of the underlying zoning district.
Each of the Overlay Zoning Districts established by the provisions of this ordinance was created with a specific intent as follows:
Groundwater Aquifer Protection Overlay District (GAP)
This overlay district, shown on the North Smithfield Groundwater Aquifer Protection Overlay District (2012) on file in the office of the town clerk, and includes all land in the town identified as a groundwater reservoir, groundwater recharge area, and town owned non-transient, non-community wellhead protection area (which includes all schools) is established to fulfil the purpose of Section 9, Groundwater Protection Overlay District.
Open Space (OS)
This district includes properties owned by the Town, State or Federal government presently used for public recreation or conservation purposes. It also includes quasi-public or privately-owned land where development rights or conservation easements have been conveyed, or for which there is a reasonable expectation of long- term use for open space, conservation or recreation, such as the Audubon Society or North Smithfield Land Trust lands. Certain limited residential, recreational, agricultural and educational uses are permitted.
Section 5.3 Interpretation of Use Table and Symbols
The status of uses which appear in the table of the district use regulations vary from district to district as indicated by the symbol appearing under the appropriate column heading. The interpretation of symbols will be as follows:
Y use is permitted by right
S use may be permitted as a Special use under the provisions of Section 19.22 of this ordinance.
Y* use shall be permitted under provisions of this Ordinance for a limited time as customarily appropriate to the use, not to exceed one year.
N use is not permitted.
See Attached Use Table
You will see that Roof Mounted and Ground Mounted Systems are not allowed in Open Space areas.
Section 5.3 continues
Where any proposed use is not listed in this section, or in Section 21, Definitions, it shall be the duty of the Zoning Enforcement Officer too determine if the use is substantially similar to any existing use. If the officer determines that the proposed use is not substantially similar to any existing use, it shall be prohibited in all zones. Any decision of the Zoning Officer pro or con is appealable to the Zoning Board.
Uses listed in the following table may also be governed by the Groundwater Aquifer and Historic overlay district or by the provisions of Section 8. Flood Hazard Areas. Any uses of materials having a health hazard rating of 2,3 or 4 or a flammability rating of 1,2,3 or 4 as defined by the NFPA 325 M shall require a special use permit.
If we are to consider the allowance of Green Development to install a roof mounted solar system, I want to be assured that the Town Council will have this developer /contractor apply for and be permitted for this project as all other contractors must do.