Appeal of Northfield solar arrays dismissed

  • A site rendering created by BlueWave Solar shows where three future solar arrays would be located off Pine Meadow Road in Northfield. Contributed Image/BlueWave Solar

Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2023 6:14:16 PM

NORTHFIELD — Three proposed solar arrays on Pine Meadow Road could soon proceed, as all parties have agreed in Franklin County Superior Court to dismiss an appeal of the project.

The dismissal of the appeal came less than a week after the final pretrial conference, in which attorneys for abutter Chris Kalinowski, environmental nonprofit RESTORE: The North Woods, developer BlueWave Solar and the Northfield Planning Board all agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice and without fees to any party.

“This was the best financial decision for me and my family and my piece of property,” Kalinowski said Monday. “It’s been a long process for both sides. … It was a decision made by both parties.”

He added the prospect of “robbing” farmland and using it for a solar array in a residential neighborhood is “mind-boggling” to him, especially when there’s plenty of other places in the region to put up arrays, including parking lots.

“I’m still unhappy with taking farmland and putting solar panels on it,” Kalinowski said. “I’m still completely against it and I’m against solar. I don’t think it’s as green as everybody thinks it is.”

Attorney Mark Tanner, who represented BlueWave Solar, deferred comments to the Boston-based company, which could not be reached by press time on Monday.

In April, Franklin County Superior Court Judge Karen Goodwin had set a trial date for the matter after finding Kalinowski and RESTORE: The North Woods were able to “raise genuine issues of material fact” to BlueWave’s arguments and they met the legal standing requirements to move the case forward.

Kalinowski’s September 2021 appeal followed the Northfield Planning Board’s approval of conditions for special permits for the three solar arrays. In total, the project was estimated to cost $20 million for construction and will consist of about 76 acres of solar arrays installed across three noncontiguous tracts of land owned by the L’Etoile family and Hopping Ahead LLC.

Throughout the Planning Board’s public hearing process in early 2021, residents complained about the scale of the project and its zoning impact. Neighbors voiced concerns about the visual impact of covering scenic fields with solar panels, as well as the loss of “prime farmland.”

“Array A,” which Kalinowski’s property abuts, is the largest of the three at roughly 26 acres and would be located north along Pine Meadow Road, beyond Riverview Road. “Array B” would be across from the Four Star Farms main building. The smallest, “Array C,” would be on the Connecticut River side of Pine Meadow Road.

The plaintiffs in the case argued the Planning Board’s approval should have been overturned because the board violated the Mullin Rule, which allows a board member to participate in future hearings on a topic after missing one; the Zoning Board of Appeals was the board with the authority to grant the permit; and the Planning Board failed to make the required findings.

Goodwin ruled the plaintiffs had the legal standing to make those arguments in a trial, but denied making a summary judgment on those claims. She also denied motions by BlueWave to strike the plaintiffs’ experts and their opinions, and denied a motion by BlueWave seeking retroactive approval of arrays A and B without a permit because of a 2022 amendment to a state statute addressing use of agricultural land for renewable energy.

Janet Sinclair, a co-founder of local advocacy group Concerned Citizens of Franklin County who often collaborates with RESTORE: The North Woods, said she is disappointed the appeal was dismissed and the potential loss of farmland is a negative impact on the town. Sinclair has been involved with the case for a while and helped organize a protest against the project in front of the Franklin County Justice Center in 2022.

“Our goal was to stop the project, but the lawsuit did not accomplish that for us. We are disappointed,” she said. “For the area itself, the destruction and degradation of Indigenous cultural resources has not adequately been addressed. Real estate values in the area will go down. Wildlife corridors will be disrupted. The scenic road will be way less scenic.”

Instead of placing solar arrays on “some of the best farmland in Massachusetts,” Sinclair echoed Kalinowski’s thoughts and said developers could place them on “already degraded land,” such as rooftops and over parking lots.

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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