Wiscasset Planning Board

Maine Tasting Center, Jones Road solar farm eyed

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 8:30am

Over Zoom Monday night, the Wiscasset Planning Board reviewed the site plan application for a community shared solar project and a pre-application for Maine Tasting Center.

Andrew Gross owns the 506 Bath Road property where Maine Tasting Center would go. Amanda Austin of 2A Architects presented the pre-application for the business they described as an event space-education center based on iconic Maine food and beverages. It would use existing buildings as a tasting room, discovery hall and class space. The discovery hall would have an exhibition space where many of the state associations would provide interactive displays and visitors could take classes.

The venture is a collaboration with the Maine Departments of Tourism and Economic and Community Development. The hope is to open by next May. It would be a seasonal business, open May-October. Gross noted, while it is a for-profit, it is an S-corporation with a Maine benefits corporation election, so it is “as close to a nonprofit as (it) can (be).” Gross spoke of a mission to give back to the community. Once the center is fully up and running, Gross expects it to have three full-time workers and four or five part time.

The site plan application the board heard from Wiscasset Solar 1 involved a possible solar facility at 29 Jones Road. Mike Atkinson, representing Syncharpha, said it plans to own, operate and maintain the project for the life of it, at least 20 years. He said homeowners could buy credits to save 10% on their energy bills.

The project will cover just under 20 acres, be surrounded by a seven-foot chain-link fence and contain approximately 16,000 panels. Atkinson said panels would be monitored daily. Cole Peters of Power Engineers, a partner, said the land is largely woodland.

Peters said, if all goes well, construction could start early next year and finish in the summer. Syncharpha would maintain the road including plowing, as Jones Road is a private road. The project is “very secluded,” said Atkinson. In winter it could be potentially visible from Jones Road. Several abutters including Diane Hammond joined the meeting. Hammond asked a few questions and voiced support. The board found the application complete and set a site walk for Sept. 23 and a public hearing for Sept. 28.

Board Chair Karl Olson said there might be up to three more applications at the next meeting, 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, either in-person or via Zoom.