Fiorentini Sounds Off on Solar Projects Amid Hexagon Energy Concerns

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini delivers annual State Of The City address (Dave Morrison file photograph for WHAV News.)

As the debate over installation of Hexagon Energy solar panels in Haverhill continues, Mayor James J. Fiorentini is using concerns raised by city councilors and neighbors as a teachable moment to tighten up policies and practices.

In the wake of a Feb. 26 public hearing where neighbors from Kristine Lane spoke in opposition to the proposed 20-year lease Virginia-based Hexagon hopes to enter into with the city, Fiorentini told WHAV the meeting helped him put things into perspective.

Largely reserving judgment on the panels, Fiorentini hopes the city’s inspectional services team will use a heavy hand in requiring owners to bring the blighted property up to code.

“The last thing in the world we want is to have our city taken over by solar panels. The one thing I do know about this parcel is that we have to take stronger action against the owners to clean it up,” Fiorentini said on a recent episode of WHAV’s Open Mic Show. “I don’t know if it’s the right place for solar panels but it’s absolutely the right place for strict enforcement.”

During a recent conversation with WHAV Open Mic Show co-hosts Bill Macek and Ralph Basiliere, Fiorentini said he hopes the Council will consider reserving “buildable land” like the parcel in question for development purposes.

Development is exactly what worries neighbors like Diane Hudson, who spoke in opposition at the February Council meeting. She worried how her property value would be impacted as a result of the installation.

“I still think that this is about money rather than about anything else. Nobody is really caring about the people on Kristine Lane,” Hudson said. “What we’re caring about is that Hexagon makes some money for 20 years.”

Basiliere, a Haverhill conservation commissioner, said his group voted to approve the project because it adhered to the Wetlands Protection Act, noting that wetlands and habitats thrive around solar panel arrays. The City Council plans to revisit the issue at the March 19 meeting. In the meantime, Hexagon representative Scott Remer said he’d meet with neighbors to address their specific concerns before any special permit hearings.

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