Bourne selectmen agreed Tuesday night they should become far more involved in the review and community discussion of key issues – such as lifeguards, turbines and solar farming – before the vexing items are listed in Town Meeting warrants and presented to voters.
The discussion arose after Selectman Jamie Sloniecki on the morning after the special town meeting vote to approve a solar photovoltaic review bylaw. Sloniecki took issue with the discussion and rationale about larger-scale ground-mounted solar installations being placed in specially designated overlay districts.
Sloniecki said such overlays have impacts on abutters that are not readily understood or explored by the planning board in their last-minute hearings into such topics prior to town meeting review.
Selectman John Ford said planning board hearing on complicated issues should be held at least two weeks before any town meeting. He said such hearings should also be cablecast to help voters prepare for town meeting and a reasonable discussion of topics that might affect their neighborhoods.
Town Planner Coreen Moore said there is a degree of community protection built into the concept of solar overlay districts at the landfill off MacArthur Boulevard, near the technical high school off Sandwich Road and the Cape Cod Aggregates pit off Scenic Highway.
Moore says that without such designated areas, the town would not be able to stop large-scale solar farm proposals. But opponents say such overlay districts were charted without proper notification to townspeople, especially with a public hearing just a week before the special session.
“We need to have the abutters’ discussion,” Sloniecki said, echoing the town meeting sentiment of James Potter of Buzzards Bay; who said notification to the public about the solar-farming bylaw was inadequate.
“As it is, somebody can go in and clear-cut tens and tens of acres,” Sloniecki said Tuesday night. “And if you’re an abutter, this can impact you.”
Ford said such issues “need far more discussion, the pros and cons, prior to town meeting.” He said formal recommendations and reports by selectmen to voters at town meeting should also be a part of the discussion prior to votes.
Town meeting voters on Monday night approved the solar bylaw by a 170-45 margin.
Sloniecki’s concern mirrors the stance he took against a proposal now before the Cape Cod Commission to build industrial-grade turbines off Scenic Highway and Route 25; before the selectmen’s energy advisory committee could review the proposal and produce a report.
The New Generation Wind proposal is pending with the Cape commission, and the landowners involved have also placed a preliminary subdivision plan before the regional agency to safeguard their best land-use interests should the wind-farm plan not pass muster in Barnstable.
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