cranston ri solar farm may be referred to start of natick avenue renewable energy planning process

  • A meeting to possibly vote on the first stage has been postponed
  • Residents filled the halls of the city council

CRANSTON — Will a proposed solar farm in Cranston that has received final approval from the city have to go through the four-year approval process again?

That’s a distinct possibility after a hearing and vote on the first stage of the process, called the master plan, was postponed Tuesday night.

The 30-acre project would produce approximately 8 megawatts of power in a lightly wooded area off Natick Avenue. The master plan, the first step in the three-step process, was first approved by a 5-4 vote in 2019 and received final approval in January. The project was first proposed in 2018.

Project attorney Robert Murray asked the City Plan Commission to postpone, after being told by an attorney representing neighbors opposed to the project, Patrick Dougherty, of a case in Rhode Island Supreme Court from 1968.

In this case, the Supreme Court found that when a court returns a case to a board that includes many new members, the board cannot simply re-vote, but must instead start the whole process over again.

The judge returns the project:A Cranston commission did not allow enough public comment. Now a solar farm is in danger

The Cranston Planning Commission similarly replaced many of the nine members who voted on the first phase of the project in 2019.

Murray said it would be “prudent” to take the time to consider the issue raised by Dougherty.

After a long discussion about the date of the next meeting, the board voted to call a special meeting. No specific date has been set.

Not enough public comments

The solar project was referred to the City Plan Commission by Judge Netti Vogel following an appeal from neighbors. Vogel discovered that the city was not allowing public comment after revised plans and new evidence were submitted for the first phase of the project.

Pioneer and forerunner:Superior Court Justice Netti Vogel, planning her retirement, transformed the legal landscape of RI

Solar farms face fierce opposition

The Natick Avenue solar farm, and others like it in Cranston, were made possible after the city council changed zoning rules, mainly affecting the western part of town, to allow solar panels as of right in rural residential areas.

February 6, 2019:Natick Avenue Solar Farm Gets Master Plan Approval

Then, in the face of backlash from approved projects, they approved a moratorium on new projects and eliminated solar farms as a zoned use entirely.

Solar projects create tensions:Cranston City Council considers moratorium after proposals draw complaints from neighbors

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Contact journalist Wheeler Cowperthwaite at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @WheelerReporter.

Louisa R. Loomis