PAWTUCKET – If all goes according to plan, the sprawling parking lot area next to the former Building #19 off Narragansett Park Drive will soon become a solar power facility.
Developer Paul Marks, who grew up in Pawtucket and now lives in Boston, told The Valley Breeze he was attracted to this 8.5-acre property in part because creating new solar power doesn’t involve destroying nature.
“It’s a model of using distressed or undervalued parcels in urban areas that could be used for solar development that don’t require cutting down trees,” he said.
Marks, who received Zoning Board of Review approval from the city in December, intends to submit plans to the City Planning Commission in advance of its meeting in May.
The Zoning Board approved a conditional use variance for the solar farm in a commercial general zone for applicant RMD Management Associates. The owner of the property is 19 Beverage Hill Realty Trust.
“The city is excited at the prospective opportunity of a vacant property being developed for an innovative use,” said Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien.
This proposal is completely separate from the Building #19 property itself, said Marks. He said he’s not aware of any redevelopment efforts happening at that property, and said the solar development won’t impact it.
The developer said he is hoping to come to an agreement with the city on a tax stabilization agreement, phasing in increased real estate taxes on the property.
Marks is working with business partner Ofer Zaarur, of Invest Green, and architect Miriam Spear, of the Spear Design Group.
According to Marks, he’s primarily a residential developer but has done some smaller solar development projects.
The solar project would feature a standard voltaic racking system, according to minutes of the December meeting. Asphalt will be maintained to prevent overgrowth under the panels.
Ground-mounted solar panels would cover 107,278 square feet, and rooftop solar on a new building would cover 30,000 square feet. A data center and storage building would cover 40,000 square feet.
The solar project will have appropriate fencing for security and tree line to shield the view. It will also feature security lighting, says Marks.
Neighbor Charles Collins, speaking at the December meeting, objected to the application, citing concerns about vegetation and broken asphalt. He offered concern that the property, which has long been neglected, will continue in that state.
Solar panels will be 8 feet tall on the high end and 3 feet tall on the short end.
Marks was able to make a successful case to the Board of Review that there will be a deprivation of all beneficial use of the property if his application is ultimately denied.
The Board of Review’s approval was contingent on further approvals from the City Planning Commission and numerous other special conditions for the property, including that an 8-foot stockade fence be put up along the property line bordering on homes.