SUTTON – Voters at a special town meeting last night rejected a proposed zoning bylaw amendment that would have allowed large-scale photovoltaic solar installations of more than 250 kilowatts on residential property of 100 acres or more.
By a vote of 25 in favor and 46 opposed, the article submitted by Robert Maki as a citizen’s petition fell far short of the two-thirds majority vote necessary for approval.
Scott Paul, chairman of the Planning Board, said the board didn’t support changing a photovoltaic-installation zoning bylaw, adopted at town meeting in October, before it had been used. That bylaw allows solar panels producing up to 250 kilowatts to be installed on residential property. Larger installations may only be installed, by special permit, on industrial, commercial or business-zoned property.
Mr. and Mrs. Maki would like to lease roughly 40 acres of their 150-acre Star of the East Christmas Tree Farm, 15 Dewitt Road, to a developer for a 4- to 5-megawatt solar farm. They contend the revenue would allow them to maintain their farm and its setting would be unobtrusive.
“This scale of a project is really very industrial,” said Planning Board associate member Jonathan Anderson. “It’s like a land grab here in Massachusetts because of the (solar) incentives. The last thing I want to see is our farmland getting taken up and used for large-scale solar panels.”
Others said that while they were in favor of solar energy, the proposed amendment to the new bylaw was “too thin” and opened the town to potential unintended consequences.
Planning Director Jennifer S. Hager said that proponents would have to revise the proposal substantially to bring the issue back to town meeting in the spring.
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