Just a few weeks ago, the ‘Stretch’ code – which will be before the Town Meeting tonight – appeared to be a good idea to the majority of the Board of Selectmen.
Under the warrant article written and sponsored by the Energy Committee, the new code offered municipalities a streamlined and cost effective way to achieving approximately 20 percent better energy efficiency in new residential and commercial buildings than what was required by the state’s basic energy code.
But in the past few weeks, the ‘Stretch” code has been placed under the spotlight with residents making a duel argument of 1. what’s the rush, and 2. what’s the cost?
And in the aftermath of some of those answers, the Selectmen have reversed their previous support for the measure and will recommend unanimously the article to change the town’s construction by-law be defeated.
“It’s not that we, as a board, are opposed to environmental proposals. We’re just opposed to the procedure before us,” said Selectman Angelo Firenze.
The idea of the ‘Stretch’ code is not foreign to many communities around the state: many of Belmont’s neighbors – Arlington, Watertown, Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Medford, Concord and Lincoln – have adopted it.
The ‘Stretch’ code exceeds the basic state construction code on energy efficiency, requiring better material, appliances and heat and cooling equipment to be used.
Supporters say it’s a critical step toward achieving the emission reduction goals approved by Belmont’s Town Meeting in the fall of 2009 were representatives endorsed the objective of reducing carbon emissions in Belmont by 80 percent by 2050.
Yet while many are supportive of the articles goals, they, like the Selectmen, have been raising concerns about the measure.
The most significant issue, said Selectmen Chairman Ralph Jones, is whether adopting the current ‘Stretch’ code automatically requires the town to keep adopting the most stringent building code on emission reduction on the books.
Jones pointed to the state’s likely acceptance next year of the current ‘Stretch’ code and then writing an even more restrictive code for the communities that accepted the code in the past.
When asked his opinion, Energy Committee co-chair Roger Colton, who helped write the article, told Selectman Mark Paolillo that state official Marc Breslow, director of transportation and building policy for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, did not know if the automatic jump into a higher level of commitment would occur.
But Town Administrator Tom Younger said town counsel told him that, indeed, cities and towns would be required to take on the extra burden of using a higher standard on building efficiencies.
“And I’ll take the word of our counsel,” said Younger.
Firenze also said since the state will be accepting the current ‘Stretch’ code as the state’s baseline, “what’s the rush in accepting it now?”
The retroactive acceptance issue along with the potential cost per household and that the by-law was a requirement on home and property owners made supporting a Belmont ‘Stretch’ code “murky at best,” said Paolillo, just before the board voted 3-0 against the article.
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