Planning Board hearing on bylaw next Monday

Above: Regulations on commercial solar installations may be voted on by residents next month. (Image posted to Flickr by kateausburn)

The Planning Board plans to present one bylaw to Town Meeting this April. But it may not be the one you were expecting.

Once again, the board is pulling back revisions to zoning bylaws. Instead, it is introducing a new Solar bylaw.

The board’s efforts to bring zoning regulations to Town Meeting have stretched on for years. In winter 2013-14, members agreed with Town Planner Jennifer Burney’s plan to scrap a general rewrite. The new plan was to bring one revised section at a time, beginning with Site Plan Review.

A revised Site Plan Review bylaw was on the Warrant at Town Meeting last spring. But the board withdrew it on the floor.

At the time, board member Kathy Bartolini told voters the board needed to check the plan against court rulings. She assured them it would be ready for the next annual or special Town Meeting.

The board was still working on revisions this winter, and this winter it was still up on the town website as headed to TM. Now, references to that bylaw have disappeared, replaced with “The Planning Board has one warrant article for the upcoming April 2015 Town Meeting.”

That bylaw is the Solar bylaw that the board began work on last fall.

Currently, the town lacks specific bylaws regulating the installation of commercial solar energy systems. The board is looking to remedy that. 

By state law, installations under 250 kw are allowed by right. But the town is able to specify regulations for larger installations.

At their March 9th meeting, the board discussed restricting 250+ kw systems by right to industrial and industrial park districts. The Business Highway zone would be another potential area for the installations, but only by special permit from the board.

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 23, 8:00 pm in the Town House Hearing Room. To read the draft bylaw, click here. For the draft rules and regulations, click here.

Updated (3/17/15 3:25 pm): I was just able to view last week’s Advisory Board meeting. In the meeting, Kathy Bartolini explained to Advisory that recent snow storms are to blame for Site Plan Review being pulled. The series of Monday night cancellations kept the board from moving forward quickly enough to be ready with both zoning bylaws for the April meeting. Given that the town is without solar bylaws and Bartolini’s assertion that solar “is coming”, they prioritized that bylaw.

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