HAMPDEN — During its June 5 meeting, the Hampden Conservation Commission continued its hearing for the agri-solar proposed facility at 530 Glendale Rd.

The proposed project would construct a 4.92-megawatt facility with interior areas for grazing sheep, cattle and chickens at the Glendale Road location. If approved, the facility is expected to be constructed in 2025 with use beginning in 2026 for at least 25 years, Conservation Commission Co-chair Judy McKinley Brewer said.

The commission initially began its review of the project in February. This review is the first step in the multi-board review process needed to formally approve the project, which will include the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, Brewer told Reminder Publishing.

During the June 5 meeting, the Conservation Commission discussed and approved a list of proposals to complete for finalizing the peer review process in the project. Prior to this discussion, two evaluations of the project were conducted by Tighe and Bond, as well as review and discussion by the commission and the applicant, Brewer stated.

The list of proposals contained 11 items requested by the commission and was estimated by Tighe and Bond as costing $11,000 to complete, Brewer said. Items included reviewing the agricultural plan and providing recommendations on multiple aspects of the project, such as riverfront restoration and stormwater management. Following discussion, the commission agreed to remove items 1, 6 and 10 from the list, totaling a removal of $2,300, Brewer noted. The rest of the list was unanimously approved as written.

Resident concerns

At the June 5 meeting, the commission also addressed questions submitted by residents concerning the project. One significant discussion surrounded adherence to the buffer zones of the nearby parcels and wetlands along the property.

Multiple residents raised concerns that the road that followed the property’s east and northern sides was too close to the wetlands and abutters’ property at northern edge of the property. Within the town’s zoning bylaws, this area contains a 50-foot “No Disturb Zone” from the parcel as set by the Planning Board, Brewer said. In order to adhere to the wetlands buffer, the project currently runs against this 50-foot buffer line.

While some residents argued that this meant the road could not be legally placed in this area, Brewer explained that the road could potentially be placed inside or above the wetlands buffer zone if the commission decided this was an appropriate action. She stated that an informal discussion suggested that the commission supported the road going around the wetlands, but that she was personally concerned about the Planning Board’s “No Disturb Zone” and the closeness of the road to the abutting property.

Applicant Rory Walker later stated that while the limit of work may be located in the 50-foot buffer zone, the modules for the project were outside of the zone.

Another concern that was discussed was the potential noise from the solar array. Brewer stated that this was previously analyzed and found that the noise level was not high enough to disturb animals in the area. Concerning noise interrupting abutters, she explained that the noise level could reach 10 decibels above the current level of 50 decibels, however noise levels could only be enforced if violated, rather than before the project is constructed. Furthermore, the analysis must be conducted by a professional consultant.

The Conservation Commission will next discuss this project during its June 25 meeting, Brewer stated. At this meeting, the commission will specifically discuss the riverfront restoration plan and agricultural plan.