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Town meeting adjourns with long-winded energy debate  

Credit:  Joey Vines, Billerica Townie News, billericatownienews.com 17 October 2010 ~~

In a brief final session Tuesday, Billerica town meeting members passed a warrant article that will make it easier for residents to supplement their energy costs using solar technologies.

The new bylaw will allow residents to use non-freestanding solar technologies, such as rooftop solar panels, without getting a permit from the planning board. Free- standing technologies will still need approval from the board.

Rep. Marti Mahoney, a planning board member, presented the bill to members saying, “This bylaw will make it possible for homeowners and commercial entities to generate clean, renewable energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels.”

While the bylaw was met with overwhelming support, Rep. Joe Silva expressed concern that residents who install these solar energy systems may one day be have neighbors that build additions to their houses that block the sun. Silva urged the planning board to hammer out a compromise to protect existing homeowners.

Town Planner Peter Kennedy pledged to work on the issue and perhaps offer an amendment in the spring. “It does make sense,” he said.

While the solar debate proceeded quickly, the final session of town meeting was not without its traditional disagreements.

After planning board members offered an article that would have allowed residents and business owners to put wind energy systems on their properties, members became wary that these windmill were unsafe and unnecessary giving that, according to some, Billerica did not have the wind activity these systems required in order to make a difference in energy production.

Rep. David Johnson offered an amendment that would have protected residents against loud noises by declaring that any structure that produced loud noises deemed a public nuisance, and therefore, be shutdown.

Yet some members said the term public nuisance was too vague and voted the amendment down.

Rep. Jim Stevens originally planned to offer eight separate amendments that, among other things, sought to increase the maximum height of these structures from 100 feet to 180 feet.

However, after Stevens’ first amendment, which sought to more clearly define the allowed structures failed, he declined to offer the other seven.

The article was referred to the planning board for further consideration.

After the meeting, Stevens said he thought the height should be changed to 180 feet because the telecommunications bylaw allows for that height.

“Those bylaw regulations are designed to be restrictive because those telecommunications towers emit,” he said. “If you have excellent wind energy above your property, you probably don’t want regulations restricting your access to that wind.”

Town meeting will meet again in May when members will consider the budget for next fiscal year.

Source:  Joey Vines, Billerica Townie News, billericatownienews.com 17 October 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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