Legal Ruling Kills Broadway Residential Solar Farm Before Vote; Haverhill Adds Moratorium

Run-down property at 1037 Broadway was under consideration for a solar farm. (WHAV News photograph.)

A developer’s plans to build a small solar farm on the site of a Broadway residence was struck down by the city’s legal department before a scheduled Haverhill City Council vote Tuesday night. Councilors also imposed a six-month moratorium on such projects.

Hexagon Energy of Charlottesville, Va., had proposed to build the array on just under two acres at 1037 Broadway, saying it would create enough electricity to power 40 homes. Development Manager Scott Remer told WHAV he isn’t ruling out legal action. City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. ruled earlier Tuesday the project does not meet city requirements for ground-mounted solar generation. Upon request by City Councilor William J. Macek, Cox said the city’s rules for such installations require both a generation capacity of more than 250 kiloWatts and use of more than three acres of land. Remer said the city ordinance is unclear.

“Our project is proposed at 250 kiloWatts AC—alternating current. It is, however, sized at 351 kiloWatts DC, and your bylaws fail to express whether AC or DC is the sizing that needs to be addressed,” Remer argued.

He said that while Hexagon’s proposal calls for using less than two acres for the panels themselves, the entire site represents four acres. Councilors halted further rebuttal at the urging of Macek. “The solicitor’s opinion is clear and it is actually the law of the city until it is challenged—usually in a court, not in a council chamber,” he said.

The larger issues of ground-mounted solar panels will receive further scrutiny as councilors voted, under suspension of the rules, to adopt Macek’s motion to study the ordinance. He said the current ordinance is inconsistent with other residential rules such as setbacks from lot lines. The matter will be taken up the Council’s Administration and Finance Committee, headed by Councilor Colin F. LePage. LePage had also expressed concern about the Broadway project—mostly the existing condition of the property. He called for the city’s code enforcement team to require the cleanup of the site.

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