Land Court Upholds Bylaw Requiring Solar Energy Facility to Obtain Special Permit

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On December 12, 2019, Chief Justice Gordon Piper of the Massachusetts Land Court denied the plaintiff, PLH LLC’s Motion for Summary Judgment on a petition filed under G.L. c. 240, § 14A, challenging the validity of the Town of Ware Zoning Bylaw.  Plaintiff plans to install two large ground-mounted solar energy facilities totaling 8.0 MW on 56 acres in a Rural Residential (RR) district within the Town of Ware.  Under the Ware Zoning Bylaw, such a use in an RR district requires a special permit granted by the Planning Board.  After the Planning Board initially denied the special permit, plaintiff appealed the decision to the Land Court pursuant to G.L. c. 40A, § 17.  The Land Court remanded the case to the Town for a second public hearing, following which the Planning Board ultimately granted the special permit.  Although its Chapter 40A appeal was subsequently dismissed as moot, plaintiff continued to challenge the validity of the special permit requirement on the grounds that the installation of solar energy facilities is a protected use under G.L. c. 40A, § 3; therefore, the special permit requirement (argued PLH) is invalid as an unreasonable regulation.  The Land Court disagreed and ordered judgment to enter in favor of the Town.  Chapter 40A, Section 3 does not, ruled the Court, expressly prohibit the regulation of solar energy facilities by means of  the special permit process, provided the Bylaw is reasonably applied so as to protect the public health, safety or welfare.  Attorney John Davis of PDP represented the Town of Ware in the Land Court action.