January 26, 2011

Zoning changes ‘biggest hurdle’ for Green Act, Medfield officials say

By Derek McLean / correspondent, Wicked Local Medfield, www.wickedlocal.com 26 January 2011

Medfield —

Medfield is making preparations for a vote to make the town a part of the Massachusetts Green Community Act. The proposed plan would cut both the school’s and the town’s energy consumption by around 20 percent. The plan is waiting for funding approval from the School Committee, the Board of Selectman, and a vote at a Town Meeting.

According to Town Administrator Michael Sullivan and confirmed by the chair of the Medfield Energy Committee, Marie Nolan, Medfield was awarded an energy planning grant from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), which will provide the town with 100 hours of consulting services to assist in the preparation of an Energy Baseline Reduction Plan.

“An Energy Baseline Reduction Plan will establish a five-year schedule for achieving the five criteria to qualify as a Green Community,” Sullivan said. “Once the town has agreed to adopt the five criteria, it will have a five year time frame to implement the plan…The five criteria will adopt an as-by-right zoning for energy research and development, manufacturing, and or generation.”

According to Medfield town Selectman Osler Peterson, the changes in zoning will be the biggest hurdle the town would face.

“The two biggest changes that would be required for Medfield to become a green community are to adopt the stretch building code and the as-of-right permitting,” Peterson said.

The changes in zoning would be made for newly constructed buildings, Peterson said. All buildings built previous to the act would be grandfathered in.

“Zoning would be the hardest because it would require the biggest change,” he said. “Anytime you’re effecting the zoning change, there are certain people who work very hard at that and it requires a two- thirds vote at a town meeting.

But Peterson said that the town could qualify for the new zoning changes mandated by the act by designating certain areas for manufacturing green technology.

“We can do that by certain by-ins of the town that are already zoned for industrial uses,” he said. “You can really do it without any serious impact on your town.”

According to Sullivan and Nolan some possible ways the town will “go green” include changing the heat, ventilation, and air-conditioning process controls in town and school buildings. The town may also change over to LED lighting for parking lots, playing fields, and or street lighting. Also considered is the replacement of motors and pumps with more energy efficient ones in our water and sewer facilities, replacement of boilers with more energy efficient boilers, and replacing town and school vehicles with more energy efficient vehicles, as they become available.

Other possible changes would include, “the installation of improved energy generation equipment, such as solar photovoltaic panels, geothermal pumps, or wind turbines, as they become available and economic, in our buildings,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan and Nolan expect any construction on town facilities will be bid out to private contractors. According to Sullivan the cost of the plan is not yet known. But he expects “much of the cost will be recouped from energy cost savings,” he said. “However, the payback periods for this will be determined for each project as the plan is implemented.”

There is also a possibility that state, federal, and or private grants become available to pay for all or a portion of the project costs. According to Sullivan those grants would be a factor in how much Medfield would have to pay.

“[Funders] often say they will, start out paying some of the costs and then leave you to your own devices and finances,” Sullivan said. “That’s why it’s important to evaluate each proposed project to make sure it’s cost effective and efficient. It could help raise or lower taxes, depending on the project costs and energy savings.”

Medfield is not the first town to engage in the state wide Green Community Act.

“To date, 53 cities and towns in Massachusetts have become Massachusetts Green Communities by passing all five Green Communities Act criteria,” Nolan said.

Other towns that have decided to go green include Medway, Holliston, and Dedham.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2011/01/26/zoning-changes-biggest-hurdle-for-green-act-medfield-officials-say/