EXETER TOWN COUNCIL
OCTOBER 30, 2017
The Special Meeting of the Exeter Town Council was called to order at 7:00 p.m., on Monday, October 30, 2017, in Council Chambers, Exeter Clerk’s Office, 675 Ten Rod Road, Exeter, Rhode Island.
Kevin P. McGovern
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Daniel W. Patterson
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Calvin A. Ellis
Absent - Vacation
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Frank A. Maher, Jr.
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Raymond A. Morrissey, Jr.
Also Present: Lynn M. Hawkins, Town Clerk
SOLAR PILOT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE TOWN OF EXETER: Robert Craven, Esq., and representatives from Green Development were present. Mark DePasquale, President, headed the presentation and distributed a copy of the power point to Council: The Town will realize a $50 million economic benefit through private lease payments, town lease payments, and tax revenue; State law allows for $5,000/megawatt; Green Development is proposing $7,000/megawatt to the Town; Green Development will donate $3,500/
megawatt for scholarships and/or unaddressed needs of the community; roughly 300 general trade jobs will be created; Green Development will hire locally where possible; solar will take land out of possible residential development; it will create revenue to the Town rather than the property being developed with houses and the number of students at the schools increasing which will cost the Town; solar has no impact on Town resources or services, is safe for the community, and is revenue positive; current economics and markets are currently driving solar; the window could close at any time; opportunities could be missed; action should be taken now; Rhode Island government
is strongly supporting renewable energy; Exeter is ahead in that it already has a solar ordinance; Green Development is dedicated to preserving vistas with vegetation
(screening); solar supports rural character; Green Development is the largest owner and operator of renewable energy in RI; its mission is to boost local economies, increase natural resource and energy security, achieve electrical cost savings, and preserve open space; Green Development has four projects presently submitted to the Planning Board: Kateri Church, Exeter Road; Andrews Property, Route 102; Jason Whitford Property, Tripps Corner Road; and Kevin Casey/Exeter Real Estate Holdings Property, Route 102; it is working on bringing other projects.
Discussion ensued regarding the projects submitted, megawatt availability and distribution, revenue calculations and possibilities, preserving the vistas, vegetation maintenance, and job opportunities.
RESOLUTION IMPOSING A SIXTY (60) DAY MORATORIUM ON THE FILING OF APPLICATIONS, REGULATORY PERMITTING, AND ISSUING OF BUILDING OR OTHER PERMITS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF UTILITY SCALE SOLAR POWER GENERATING UNITS AND/OR FACILITIES:
Planning Board Chair Mike DeFrancesco supported the moratorium on the Planning Board’s behalf: there is a lot to digest and understand; the Planning Board wants to make the right decisions for the Town and wants to treat the applicants fairly; the right tools are needed; a 60-day clock is not enough; they need to hit “the pause button” to revisit the ordinance and review new State laws; the 2015 ordinance was meant for commercial scale solar utilities in industrial zones not solar on residential properties; they want to check what other towns are doing; they need to be sure there is conformance with the comprehensive plan; they are struggling with questions; they query how residential solar fields on Route 102 are going to impact their proposed scenic highway overlay district and what the position of the Office of Energy is; and the fee schedule has to be reviewed.
Town Planner Ashley Sweet added: In 2015, the Planning Board drafted the current solar ordinance; they did the best they could at the time; they have had only two applications since; recently, they have received four, large scale utility solar application; others are expected; the ordinance is deficient; solar applications are the wave of the future; the Planning Board is not anti-solar; they want the opportunity to make the ordinance the best it can be for Exeter; the regulations do not include screening; the pause is requested in order to put into the ordinance what is missing based on what
the Planning Board has learned and is learning since 2015; the Planning Board has already started redrafting the ordinance and will submit the final draft to Council as
soon as possible.
Planning Board Member William Haas noted that there is nothing in the ordinance
to ensure conformity of solar fields.
Mr. Patterson stated that: Council does not receive quarterly reports from Planning anymore; this is the first he has heard of a scenic overlay district, which will impose more restrictive zoning; the proposed changes to the ordinance, Page 6, Nos. 8, 9,
and 10, reference a law that does not exist; he finds the moratorium, more restrictive zoning, taking away property rights, and reference to a law that does not exist disturbing; and the current ordinance does address utility scale facilities and landscaping/screening (Page 3, No. 11); “The tools are in the toolbox already”;
if the four projects were vested, he might consider the moratorium; the moratorium
will put these four projects on hold.
Ms. Sweet rebutted: she does provide quarterly reports; the last quarterly report did notify Council of the scenic overlay; Route 102 is a State scenic highway; and the
draft of the ordinance changes Council has before them tonight is not finished.
When Mr. Morrissey was Council President, there was an application for an asphalt plant on Route 3 approved by the Planning Board but denied by the Zoning Board.
As a businessman, Mr. Morrissey knows how important it is to grab revenue when and how you can. He does not want to see this opportunity for property owners or the Town to slip by.
Ms. Sweet pointed out that: if the moratorium was approved, it would not prevent the property owners from entering into agreements; it is not a choice of one or the other; the moratorium is for only sixty days; the Planning Board hopes to get the revisions to the ordinance done in that timeframe; if the moratorium is approved, new projects would not be accepted until the changes are made; the moratorium has been reviewed by both Town Solicitor James Marusak and Planning Board Solicitor Peter Ruggiero.
Robert Whitford, an Exeter resident and property owner, objected to “six people” determining his income and telling him what to do with his property.
Mr. McGovern: agreed that the ordinance needs to be modified; he has consulted with Town Solicitor Marusak; there is concern regarding the legal aspect and Planning Board’s reason for the moratorium; the reason has to be specific, such as the public is at risk; if the moratorium is approved, with the comprehensive plan not being complete, there could be a legal challenge; enacting the moratorium because the ordinance is deficient does not meet State requirement.
Discussion ensued as to timeframe for the moratorium and ordinance revision:
The Planning Board’s next workshop is dedicated to revising the solar ordinance.
They hope to submit a final draft to Council for its December meeting so a public hearing can be scheduled for January. If the moratorium is approved tonight, it will expire December 30.
Mr. Maher appreciated the Planning Board’s and the Town Planner’s efforts to protect
the Town, but agreed with Mr. Morrissey. The projects are a limited opportunity for the residents and the Town to profit. If the Town’s residents are unable to sign on within a reasonable amount of time, developers will approach residents in neighboring towns. Time is of the essence. Council cannot get a commitment from the Planning Board or Town Planner as to when Council can expect a final draft of the revised ordinance.
Mr. McGovern called for a motion. There being none, Council moved on to the next agenda item. No action taken on this agenda item.
REQUEST TO SEND LETTER OPPOSING PROPOSED STATEWIDE BUILDING PERMIT FEES: Building Inspector Ron DeFrancesco explained to Council: in 2005, the State allowed cities and towns
to develop their own fee schedules; the Building Code Commission has had a statewide fee schedule passed through legislation; the new fee schedule will realize a loss in revenue to Exeter; for example, the Town’s permit fee for a $9,000.00 project is $125.00; the State is proposing $81.00; the Building Code Commission is accepting comments until November 3.
MOTION made by Mr. McGovern to send a letter to the Building Code Commis-sion opposing proposed changes to building fees and to allow Building Inspector Ronald DeFrancesco to attend meetings and speak on behalf of the Town of Exeter; seconded by Mr. Maher.
Discussion: The Clerk will draft the letter. Solicitor Marusak will review. Mr. McGovern will sign. The letter will be emailed, hand delivered, and mailed.
Back to the Motion: Voted unanimously in the affirmative.
REQUEST OF EMILIE SIMONINI TO USE CHELSEA PARK, NOVEMBER 5, 2017, FOR THESIS FILM: Ms. Simonini has provided a Certificate of Insurance and a letter of recommendation from her professor. Council is addressing this November communication tonight because
Ms. Simonini wishes to do the filming before Council’s November Regular Meeting.
MOTION made by Mr. McGovern to grant use of Chelsea Park on November 5, 2017, to Emilie Simonini as requested; seconded by Mr. Maher; and voted unanimously in the affirmative.
A 75-mph wind storm hit the Town and State Sunday night causing major power outages and extensive damage. National Grid projects electricity to be restored in Town by Wednesday night.
MOTION made by Mr. McGovern to enter into Executive Session to discuss Personnel Issues/Labor Relations, pursuant to RIGL Section 42-46-5(a)(1); seconded by Mr. Patterson; and voted as follows:
Kevin P. McGovern
Daniel W. Patterson
Francis A. Maher, Jr.
Raymond A. Morrissey, Jr.
Council entered into Executive Session at 8:33 p.m.
Council adjourned Executive Session at 8:36 p.m. and reassembled in open session.
MOTION made by Mr. McGovern to seal the minutes of the Executive Session; seconded by Mr. Patterson; and voted unanimously in the affirmative.
MOTION made by Mr. McGovern to affirm all votes taken in Executive Session:
seconded by Mr. Patterson; and voted unanimously in the affirmative.
MOTION made by Mr. McGovern to adjourn the meeting; seconded by
Mr. Patterson; and voted unanimously in the affirmative.
The Special Meeting was adjourned at 8:36 p.m.
Lynn M. Hawkins, CMC
Exeter Town Clerk
Approved: November 6, 2017