Proposed zoning bylaw changes would further regulate large-scale solar projects in Conway

  • The solar array entrance at 2394 Main Poland Road in Conway, which is on private land that has been leased to the solar energy company Nexamp. The Conway Planning Board will hold a public hearing on March 24 to discuss possible changes to zoning bylaws concerning large-scale solar facilities. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/21/2021 4:01:26 PM

CONWAY — The Planning Board will hold a virtual public hearing on March 24 to discuss possible changes to zoning bylaws concerning large-scale solar facilities.

According to a press release from the board, those changes include removing a parcel of land on Fournier Road from the Solar Electric Overlay District, as well as revising the permitting process for solar installation to require a special permit; implementing increased setbacks from residences and public ways; and incorporating screening and fencing to reduce the impact on surrounding parcels.

The bylaw, which was last amended in 2015 as part of a Green Communities grant, does not pertain to residential solar structures or small-scale rooftop solar panels.

“Now that we understand what large-scale solar can be, we really want to take our bylaw and see where we need to add some things, and where we need to clarify some things,” said Planning Board Chair Beth Girshman. (The town’s main involvement with large-scale solar has involved a project on Main Poland Road, where private land was leased to the solar energy company Nexamp.)

The amendment to Article 2 would remove the “Fournier Parcel” at 24 Fournier Road from the Solar Electric Overlay District.

“Years ago, when the town applied to become a Green Community, some grant funding came along with that and some expectations came along with that,” Girshman explained. “One of those expectations was that you had a solar overlay district, which means a project could be in by-right — which means you wouldn’t have to go through a process (for solar projects).”

The town designated four parcels of town-owned land for this district; however, one of those parcels included Fournier Forest.

“We, last year, started a process to develop a (Forest) Stewardship Plan for the forest,” she continued. “It’s not compatible, most likely, to be declared as a by-right solar district.”

Girshman said the town checked with the state about removing that parcel from the overlay district, for which it received approval. Still, a formal amendment is required to change the bylaws.

The amendments proposed in Article of the bylaws — involving the permitting process for solar facilities — were the result of information gathered from other area towns, state guidelines and best practice guides, as well as an information session held in February, during which several abutters to the existing project on Main Poland Road offered input to improve the existing bylaw. In large part, those at the public information session on Feb. 18 favored further regulations on solar projects, including requiring a special permit, increasing setbacks and incorporating screening or fencing.

The Zoom meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 24, can be accessed at or by calling 929-205-6099. Meeting ID: 857 3654 7359; Passcode: 614366.

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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