CHESHIRE – Town officials are seeking Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) assistance in hopes of codifying a new green energy bylaw, which would address all future proposals for clean energy developments inside the town’s boundaries.
With no such law yet on Cheshire’s books, and several interested developers having found Town Hall in 2012, town officials are in agreement that the step should be taken.
“[The bylaw] would allow us to address applications in a more thoughtful manner,” said Town Administrator Mark Webber, who applied this month for a BRPC grant equal to staff time in the form of a planner who’d lead the way in crafting the bylaw.
In the town’s application, Webber notes several recent developer inquiries about potential large scale solar installations. It also notes the Water Department’s long-held goal of seeing wind turbines established by a private developer on a swath of town-owned land off West Mountain Road.
“Although the town may welcome and, indeed, receive economic benefit from such an installation, the Planning Board and Building Commissioner are without even basic regulatory/review tools and guidelines regarding the siting and permitting of such installations,” Webber’s application reads. The application does not indicate when a response can be expected.
Planning Board member Charlie Howard was instrumental in prioritizing the initiative. He said he’d like the bylaw to provide guidelines for officials to refer to in cases of both large-industrial and small or residential green energy development proposals.
But Howard stressed that any new law would not be intended to inhibit projects, but rather relieve the town of certain liabilities implicit in any new development and ensure maintenance of the projects, once erected.
“[Interest in green energy is] here,” Howard said. “It’s coming fast and we’re starting to feel it. It’s not that we don’t want [new developments] – we do. But you need something to give the applicant clear and defined lines.”
Both Howard and Webber said other local municipalities are acting on the same belief. Webber noted that Cheshire’s law could become a model for other communities.
A similar telecommunications bylaw better defining the town’s relationship with those who would, or have, built cell phone towers and other telecommunications structures in Cheshire has been completed, Howard said.
According to Select Board Chairwoman Carol Francesconi, the bylaw will be up for vote at annual town meeting in 2013.