Four months ago at the February 9 meeting of the Planning Board, Mr. Jim Clifford of NGP Management, (offices in North Reading, MA, with 120 Dunkin Donut locations in MA, ME, VT and NH) said his company operates the Dunkin’ in the Jiffy Mart on Route 12, stating, “It was doing well enough to move the business out of that building and have a free-standing building of its own.” In looking at the property at the corner of Route 12 and Upper Walpole Road, he further stated “I’d love to hear some feedback on what residents would like to see in that space and how it could be used.” Board member Jason Perron said he should “get in touch with the CLARION and maybe, through the monthly newsletter, he would get some input on what the townspeople wanted.” To this writer’s knowledge, Clifford has not asked the community for input, and I can attest that the CLARION has never been asked to assist.
The CLARION reported the above informational meeting in the March issue. Clifford returned to the Planning Board on April 13 to present a preliminary plan, and request a public hearing. As reported in those minutes, “The initial phase is to build a 5,000 square-foot building with 2,000 square feet being used for the Dunkin’ Donuts site and 3,000 square for another retail site that will be for one or two businesses. In the future, the company may be proposing another retail space of up to a 5,000 square-foot building for retail if the initial phase is a success. … Phase 2 would be solar array that would take up 5 1/2 to 6 acres of the parcel of land … The solar piece of the site plan will stand alone and probably be introduced at the May meeting.”
Clifford was unprepared at the May 11 Planning Board meeting, with changes to the original site plan and unanswered questions. Traffic is becoming a major concern at this intersection. It was decided that Dunkin’s site plan review be continued at the June meeting, possibly along with the company’s proposal for its six acre massive solar array. This meeting concluded with concerns over the solar field and its impact on aesthetics and taxes.
Along with his experts, Clifford continued discussing his Dunkin proposal at the Planning Board meeting of June 8. Dunkin is still awaiting replies from the NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT) over congestion concerns with the traffic studies. Supposedly, according to Clifford’s representatives, NHDOT will not release accident data in this area over “privacy concerns”. This was one of many statements not making sense. Clifford then said they would now construct the entire 10,000 square foot building even though the space not utilized by donuts may remain vacant. Addressing one Planning Board request, a center portion of the roof has been recessed to hide the utility equipment to be mounted on the roof. Discussion then shifted to the request for a hearing on the six-acre solar farm to be located between the Dunkin shop and Shaw’s Plaza. Listening to the statements made by the experts from Revision Energy, “Local Solar Professionals”, it appeared the intelligence of the audience was being insulted.
It has become apparent, in this writer’s opinion, that as phase one has been addressed and changed, NGP Management does not care about a new larger donut store. The prize is the six acre solar farm, a cash cow for these out-of-state owners, and an unappealing vista for in-town Walpole residents. A vacant box store could be more pleasing aesthetically and provide tax revenue for the Town.
Requiring almost six acres, the proposed 1 Megawatt Solar Field will cost upwards of $3,000,000 to build. Ten to 15 percent of the power generated will be utilized on site, with the balance fed into the grid, providing NGP Management with a possible revenue stream of from $40,000 to $90,000 per year. Revision Energy’s expert alluded that the excess energy would get to local homes faster with less distribution cost “offsetting power usage for all”. Usually you do not wait for electricity once you flip the switch, and in studying an electrical bill, I do not see distribution charges fluctuating based upon the source of current. There are both State and Federal incentives for the building of this solar field. There is no local advantage, and as resident Bob Anderson pointed out, there is question as to the legality of a commercial solar farm in Walpole.
Addressing aesthetics to screen the solar field, Revision Energy stated they will surround the field with a 7 foot chain link fence with some forsythia to hide the 11 foot high solar panel structures. Really? With the offer of forsythia being challenged by an audience member, the applicants said they may find other plantings. Insulting local intelligence seemed to be of little concern. Clifford last month stated their solar plan works financially now, but are hoping that future State legislation will make the massive solar field “more appealing” for them. Emphasis on “them”.
The June Planning Board meeting was well attended, but more residents must attend and voice their concerns. The next meeting will be July 13, and you should attend. Both Planning Board and Selectboard members should also be contacted. At the conclusion of the meeting, Cathie Davignon spoke. She and her husband, David, have lived at this dangerous intersection for 48 years. Her comments were applauded, and she has given permission for the CLARION to share them. On the front page of the CLARION website – https://thewalpoleclarion.com – you can find a link to PICTURE THIS – A STATEMENT OF CONCERN – a presentation made at the June 8 meeting
RAY BOAS, Publisher, The Walpole Clarion
A SOLAR DUNKIN – soon at a corner near you