Tisbury building inspector Ken Barwick went to selectmen armed with a Cronig’s Market shopping bag and a 30-inch weed he yanked from the ground poking out from it to prove a point.
Weeds are out of control at the 1.2 megawatt solar array on the town’s capped landfill, and the Cape and Vineyard Electrical Compact isn’t meeting its obligation to keep the photovoltaic arrays clear of weeds.
Mr. Barwick and Fire Chief John Schilling said the overgrowth poses a public safety risk.
“The biggest thing we see up there is the threat of fire,” Mr. Barwick said, pulling the weed from his bag to show the board, and a measuring tape for selectman Melinda Loberg to size it up.
“Thirty inches,” she said.
Mr. Barwick said the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requires vegetation around the array be kept to six inches. He urged the town to hold CVEC accountable under the contract.
“We’re between a rock and hard place,” said Liz Argo, the program manager at CVEC. That rock and hard place is the DEP regulations requiring vegetation on a capped landfill and the fire danger, she said. Ms. Argo said she walked the site two days ago, and understands the concerns. CVEC got permission from the Tisbury health department to treat the weed leaves with herbicides, which should begin soon, she said.
The root systems of the weeds are strong, and while spraying would eradicate them, it would also endanger water supplies, she said. That’s why they’re looking to slow them by treating just the leaves, Ms. Argo said.
The item wasn’t on the Tisbury board’s agenda, but it quickly got the attention of chairman Larry Gomez and selectman Tristan Israel.
“I think we should hit them hard,” Mr. Gomez said. “I’m tired of people complaining about how crappy this town is starting to look, and we just let it go. We can’t do that. We have to let people know we’re not going to take it anymore … Money gets people’s attention.”
While Mr. Israel floated the idea of hiring a subcontractor to mow the weeds and then charge CVEC, Chief Schilling doused that about as quickly as his department extinguished a recent boat fire. “Do you want to be putting in a subcontractor working around their equipment?” he said.
“If someone gets zapped, we’re in trouble,” Mr. Gomez said.
The solar array is owned by Clean Focus, which brings in a crew from off-Island to mow the site. To bring them in more would require a change to the contract, and possible legal action. “The only winners there would be the lawyers,” Ms. Argo said.
The solar array has always been a concern for Chief Schilling, who said firefighting standards are to avoid vegetation near solar arrays. However, state Department of Environmental Protection regulations require vegetation on a capped landfill.
“Without a solar array, the vegetation is not a problem,” he said. “It’s a continuing concern for us.”
Town administrator Jay Grande will review the town’s contract with CVEC, reach out to them about the town’s concerns, and report back to the board of selectmen July 11.
In other business, the town agreed to hold a special meeting July 7 to move along a common victualler’s license for Mikado, a restaurant proposed for 76 Main St.
Owner Xi Yu spoke to the board during public comment, asking if they could add a meeting date. Apparently, Mr. Yu got his paperwork in too late to get on Tuesday’s agenda. The board wasn’t scheduled to meet next week because of the Fourth of July holiday.
Restaurants were on the board’s menu, as earlier in the evening selectmen unanimously approved a common victualler’s license for Vineyard Caribbean Cuisine at 13 Beach Road Ext. The restaurant plans to serve Jamaican cuisine, co-owner Anthony Foster told the board.
With only a few indoor seats, the restaurant is not planning to serve alcohol, he said.
The board delayed action on a food truck proposed for Main Street by Angela Aronie.
Mr. Grande said the zoning board has still not acted on the proposal. He is also working on food truck regulations that were requested by the board.
Mr. Gomez said it would likely be sometime in the fall before the board could consider the proposal.
The board of selectmen also created a traffic roadway safety committee to review requests for signs. Mr. Grande said it would provide a vetting process for stop signs, no parking signs, and other requests before they get to the board of selectmen.