Land Sale Would End Controversial Solar Farm Plan

 

By Chris Wangler
June 13, 2024
 

A pending court settlement could end a controversial plan for a solar farm near the Lexington/Waltham line that caused a wellspring of Waltham opposition.

Controversial Green Energy Project

In late 2022, Marlborough-based Tracer Lane Realty went before Lexington planning officials to propose a 1 megawatt solar array in Lexington.

The project would be situated on part of a 30-acre wooded area in Lexington directly abutting North Waltham neighbors near Lincoln. 

Access during construction would go via 119 Sherbourne Place in Waltham, a separate residential property also owned by the developer.

Tracer Lane had already won a court challenge filed by the City of Waltham, in part because state law permits green energy projects to supersede local regulations. But more Waltham opposition was coming.

Early last year, fired-up Waltham neighbors criticized inadequate project setbacks, the loss of more than 1,000 trees and a potential fire hazard to their homes. Waltham city councilors also piled on.

But could Waltham people stop or alter a Lexington project?

The Cambridge husband and wife who own the land have said their solar project is safe, and they amended it significantly to address concerns that were raised. 

They added that it was their last chance to monetize land they bought decades ago, but have struggled to develop due to changing Lexington regulations and red tape.

Pending Settlement

After Tracer Lane received conditional approval from the Lexington Planning Board in May 2023, four lawsuits were filed, including ones from Waltham neighbors and the developer. 

 

In early May 2024, all the remaining parties agreed to pause the litigation as a proposed settlement is worked out.

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy proudly reported the news during remarks at a Waltham Chamber event on Wednesday.

“The City of Cambridge is going to buy that parcel and it will remain open space, with no solar farm,” McCarthy said, earning loud applause.

A land court document describing the proposed settlement said the purpose of the acquisition is “watershed protection and open space.” The sloped 30-acre property abuts the Cambridge Reservoir.

“The deal requires various approvals, including from the Cambridge City Council, MassDEP and for Community Preservation Act funding,” said the court motion. “The City of Cambridge is optimistic all necessary approvals will be obtained, but the process may take months to complete.”

The agenda for the next Cambridge Community Preservation Act Committee meeting on July 21 has not been published yet.

If the committee recommends the land purchase, it could potentially be approved by the Cambridge City Council during a special meeting in August. 

The amount of the proposed land sale has not yet been made public, but it would end the solar farm project if signed by all parties.

Waltham neighbors and representatives for Tracer Lane declined to comment.

File photos