Mashpee Town Meeting, October 18, 2021

Mashpee residents gathered under a tent on the high school athletic field to cast their votes at Town Meeting. At the meeting was Selectman Andrew Gottlieb,

Mashpee Town Meeting voters on Monday, October 18, indefinitely postponed a series of articles that would have created a solar overlay district over about 40 acres of land off Route 151.

The five petition articles, which sparked debate at a joint meeting of the select board and finance committee before the start of Town Meeting, were withdrawn by a representative of the petitioners due to a legal technicality.

Robert F. Mills, a Mashpee resident and local counsel for NextGrid, the solar developers hoping to purchase the land to build a solar farm, said the technicality had to do with how the Mashpee Planning Board voted on whether to recommend passage of the articles.

“I was just informed this evening that there may be a legal technicality related to [how] the planning board voted 2-2 on Articles 25 through 28,” Mr. Mills said. “I am advised that as a matter of a technicality it cannot come to Town Meeting because of that, and that is why we are moving to indefinitely postpone.”

He also said, “I think the whole notion of solar energy needs to be fully vetted or more fully vetted, I should say, by some of the town fathers—and we’ll be back.”

Located to the south and east of Wildfire Brick Oven Pizza on Route 151, the proposed solar overlay district site lies in C2 and R5 zoning districts. Had Town Meeting approved the overlay district, the developers would still need a special permit from the planning board for a project.

NextGrid told the planning board earlier this month that a solar project at the property could include a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the town of $2 million over 20 years and savings on commercial, residential and municipal electricity bills.

The split vote from the planning board at its October 8 meeting resulted from member John Phelan being unable to attend that night, Mr. Phelan said at Town Meeting.

At the joint select board and finance committee meeting just before Town Meeting, the Mashpee select board voted 3-2 to recommend passage of the article. The finance committee voted 5-2 to recommend the articles passing.

Select board members Andrew R. Gottlieb and David W. Weeden voted against recommending passage of the article, citing concerns about tree clearing and a lack of leverage to negotiate a good deal for the town if the zoning is approved.

Select board members Carol A. Sherman, John J. Cotton and Thomas O’Hara voted to recommend that Town Meeting approve the articles. The proposed site includes a sand pit and allows for higher-impact development under existing zoning, they said.

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