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Health Care Facility’s Solar Proposal Under P&Z Review

Published: June 17, 2019 at 07:00 am

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Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members are reviewing a local health care facility’s proposal to install more than 2,200 solar panels to produce electricity that would cover most of the facility’s power demand.

The P&Z held a public hearing on June 6 on the proposal from applicant Centrica Business Solutions of Iselin, N.J. The firm is seeking to modify an existing special zoning permit to allow the installation of solar panels at a 43-acre site at 139 Toddy Hill Road.

The site is the location of 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 property’s owner is 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.

Engineer Siyuan Cao of Civil 1, a Woodbury firm, presented project plans at the June 6 P&Z hearing. The solar panels would be installed in a rocky, sloped area of the parcel, which is currently wooded land. The solar array would be fenced and would occupy about four acres. Trees would be removed from about six acres to make way for the solar panels, providing suitable sun exposure.

Ron Lewis, representing Centrica, estimated that the proposed solar array would provide about 85 to 90 percent of the health care facility’s electricity requirements. The remainder of the facility’s power needs would be provided by the power grid.

Mr Lewis said the buildings at 139 Toddy Hill Road are not suitable for roof-mounted solar panels.

Questions And Answers

During the public comment section of the public hearing, Cindy Hughes of Toddy Hill Road asked whether the presence of the solar panels would create reflected glare conditions in the area. Mr Lewis said that glare would not be a problem due to the geometry of the panels in relation to Ms Hughes’ residence.

John Ross of Toddy Hill Road asked how long the installation of solar panels would take. The construction should last about six weeks, Mr Lewis responded, adding that the panels would not be visible from Mr Ross’s house. Occasional maintenance work would be performed on the panels, he added.

Susan Kassirer of Still Hill Road asked whether the solar panels would produce electromagnetic radiation. Mr Lewis responded that the electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun in the form of sunlight would be absorbed by the panels and then converted into electricity.

Also, Tom Langer of Still Hill Road asked whether the solar panel array would create electromagnetic radiation that would adversely affect the area.

Town Planning Director George Benson reiterated that a solar array would absorb sunlight, not emit radiation.

If approved, this solar/electric project would be the largest such facility on private land locally.

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

P&Z members agreed to resume the public hearing on the solar array proposal on June 20. Some P&Z members may visit the site before that hearing to familiarize themselves with the terrain proposed for the solar array.

 

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