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Marion to consider “green” designation

At their August 16, 2011 meeting, the Marion Board of Selectmen received a presentation, arranged by the Marion Energy Management Committee, to hear more about the possibility of Marion being designated a “green community”. Presenting the topic was Seth Pickering, Southeast Regional Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, who outlined the process that Marion would have to complete to be considered “green”.

Among the requirements would be adopting a “as-of-right siting” for energy generation within Marion, purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles for most non-heavy-duty municipal uses, establish an energy use baseline to reduce municipal energy use by 20 percent within five years, and require new residential, commercial and industrial construction to meet energy requirements.

“Basically, we are looking for people to change some of their behaviors when it comes to energy… we’re trying to get people to be aware of saving energy whenever possible,” said Mr. Pickering.

According to Mr. Pickering, if the town applied for the designation and was accepted by the beginning of 2012, they would be eligible for an energy-related grant, roughly totaling $150,000. Additionally, the program would encourage the appointment of an Energy Officer, complete energy audits, encourage “renewable energy opportunities” and encourage utility rebates.

In order to complete the “as-of-right siting” portion of the green community requirement, Marion could generate energy via either on-shore or off-shore wind, by using wave or tidal energy, or by utilizing solar panels. Bill Saltonstall of the Marion Energy Management Committee (MEMC) said that wind power would be unlikely because the town had rejected efforts pass a wind turbine bylaw, and had rejected Great Hill as a proposed wind energy location.

“It was the only site that met the minimum requirement for wind,” said Mr. Saltonstall. “We don’t know of any other sites that are available to us for a wind project… so wind energy is not being proposed as a part of this project.”

Residents in the audience spoke to a “stretch energy code” that would need to be passed in a bylaw in order to be a green community. Concerns were raised that such a bylaw would compromise the current permitting process.

“The town is giving up special zoning permitting protection for the sake of a one-shot $150K grant?” asked Planning Board member Ted North.

Mr. Pickering responded that Marion, once designated, would be able to apply competitively for additional grant monies, which are gathered from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction money. “It’s not directly from tax payers,” said Mr. Pickering.

“We have a lot of land up [at the transfer station],” said Selectmen Blanchette. “Some of that land could be designated for this thing,” he added, describing the possibility of putting solar panels on the capped landfill. “What bother would that be to the town? … If it’s going to be good for the town, then we should go forward with it.”

“I think in theory, every person in this town would like to be green,” said Planning Board chairman Jay Ryder. “In practicality… we’re talking about bylaw changes, which can only take place at town meeting. I think the cost analysis should also be brought up at town meeting.”

Mr. Pickering encouraged the town to contact one of the 74 Massachusetts municipalities who have recently been designated, Lakeville being the most recent and closest, for more information. Additionally, residents can visit www.Mass.gov/Energy/GreenCommunities for more information.

The Board thanked Mr. Pickering for his presentation and announced that there will be a discussion with representatives of Kingston, another green community, regarding the application process. The public is encouraged to attend that meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, September 26 at 7:00 pm in the Music Hall on Front Street.

In a second meeting, the Board met with Dorothy Burrill and other representatives of Little Neck Village, who came before the Board to discuss safety issues at the senior housing complex on Route 6.

The first concern, presented by Ms. Burrill, was the issue of pull-chains, available to residents in an emergency. “I think every resident in Little Neck Village thought that they were [hard-wired to 911],” said Ms. Burrill. However, two recent emergencies brought to light that the emergency pull-chains do not alert emergency crews. Instead, they alert the office to an emergency in the complex, but such an alert is useless if the emergency takes place at night when the office is not manned.

According to Ms. Burrill, the developer and maintenance companies were fully cooperating regarding the pull-chain issue and were working with the residents to resolve the it.

In a second issue, Ms. Burrill said that residents were concerned about the difficulty they were having with traffic safety in front of Little Neck Village. “There are a number of people who have had a near accident trying to get out of the development,” she said.

Chief Lincoln Miller confirmed that there had been 19 accidents in front of the development since its opening. Ms. Burrill asked the Board to petition the state on behalf of the town to increase signage and lower the speed limit even though it’s not heavily populated. Chief Miller added that Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) might have the time and manpower to complete traffic studies and make a recommendation.

The Board agreed to comply with the request and said it would issue a letter to Mass Highway for signage in the area.

Under action items, the Board:

• Issued a one-day road closure to Tabor Academy for construction on Front Street on September 6.

• Received reports from both Police Chief Lincoln Miller and Fire Chief Thomas Joyce regarding the GeoComm feasibility report for SouthCoast 911 regionalization. Both Chief Miller and Chief Joyce spoke to the nature of the regionalization, and said that there would be no financial or service advantage to a small municipality like Marion. The Board agreed and voted to opt out of the regionalization effort.

• Voted to accept a surrendered license from Leo’s Wine and Cheese Shop, which is now closed.

• Issued a one-day, all-alcohol license to the Marion Social Club for a wedding reception on September 10.