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Conservation Commission approves Riverwalk extension, solar project

Date: 8/2/2011

Aug. 3, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — The Citizens Energy solar project, planned for a portion of the former Bowles Airport land off of Shoemaker Lane, and the proposed extension of the Connecticut Riverwalk and Bikeway both received approval with conditions at the July 28 meeting of the town’s Conservation Commission.

Henry Kozloski, chair of the Conservation Commission, said the commission added an order of conditions to its approval of the proposed 13.1 acre solar collecting facility to be constructed by the for-profit arm of Citizens Energy Corporation on the parcel of undeveloped industrial land owned by Westmass Area Development Corporation. That parcel lies between Shoemaker Lane and abutters with homes on Cesan Drive. Kozloski said the conditions address the wetlands portion of the parcel that abuts Shoemaker Lane.

“There were a number of conditions dealing with the buffer zone and the wetlands boundaries,” Kozloski said. Among those conditions, he added, is one that requires the project management company, GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., to submit a vegetative management plan for trimming growth along the project’s wetland buffer zone.

Kozloski said that, overall, the proposed solar project’s site plan conformed to the town’s conservation regulations.

“As long as [a project] meets the regulations, it’s very easy to get through conservation, which they did do,” Kozloski said of the project.

The July 28 meeting was also the commission’s final review of the proposal to extend the eight-year-old Connecticut Riverwalk and Bikeway, which is located along River Road, to include a 5-mile loop that will eventually connect School and Main streets.

Kozloski said this site plan also passed with an order of conditions regarding wetlands issues, as the proposed path is also located in a wetlands buffer zone.

Agawam Director of Planning and Community Development Deborah Dachos had previously told Reminder Publications that the bike path extension project was awaiting approval from both the Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection before beginning the permitting process. At that time she added she expected the town to be able to begin applying for state and federal funds to complete the project in the 2014 or 2015 grant cycle.

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