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Solar/Electric Array Proposed For Health Care Complex



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The Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) has scheduled a public hearing on a firm’s request to install a solar/electric panel array at a healthcare facility in Sandy Hook. The hearing is slated for the P&Z’s Thursday, June 6, meeting which starts at 7:30 pm at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.

Applicant Centrica Business Solutions of Iselin, N.J., is seeking to modify an existing special zoning permit to allow the installation of more than 2,200 solar panels at a 43-acre site at 139 Toddy Hill Road. The number of solar panels that would be installed to convert sunlight into electricity is based on an analysis of scale drawings that were submitted as part of the firm’s P&Z application.

The site holds a nursing home known as Newtown Rehabilitation and Health Care Center as well as an assisted living complex known as The Commons at Newtown. Athena Health Care Systems operates the facilities. The engineering drawings submitted to the P&Z for the project, however, list the site as Masonicare. The property’s current owner is listed as Newtown Landlord LLC of Farmington.

Masonicare at Newtown formerly owned the complex, operating a nursing home there as well as an adjoining assisted living facility, which was then known as Lockwood Lodge. The Masonicare operation was licensed for 154 skilled nursing beds and 55 assisted living apartments.

In October 2017, a Masonicare spokesman announced that the nonprofit Masonicare facility would be sold to Athena Health Care Systems. Farmington-based Athena has nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

The engineering company for the solar array project is Civil 1, an engineering firm in Woodbury. Drawings for the project indicate that multiple rows of solar panels would be installed east and southeast of the building which holds the nursing home and the assisted living apartments.

The building is located at the end of an approximately 1,500-foot-long driveway that extends from the residential Toddy Hill Road. The site would be cleared to provide the solar array with direct sun exposure. A security fence would enclose the solar panels.

Because the applicant is seeking to modify an existing special zoning permit to allow solar panel installation, people who own property in the surrounding area must be notified of the P&Z’s public hearing by mail. The application lists 55 property owners who have holdings within 500 feet of the site who would receive such mailed notices.

In solar arrays such as the one proposed for the healthcare site, the property owner typically sells the electricity produced by the solar panels to the electric utility company that serves the area.

The town’s largest solar power installation, which started operation in 2018, is located at the closed municipal landfill off Ethan Allen Road. That installation contains 4,266 solar panels. Electricity produced at that facility is sold to Eversource to reduce the municipal electric bill.

The solar/electric project proposed for 139 Toddy Hill Road would be the largest such facility on private land locally.

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