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Buckland moratorium vote in May

BUCKLAND – This spring, Buckland will consider two zoning bylaw moratoriums for those seeking to develop wind farms or commercial-scale solar farms – moratoriums intended to give the Planning Board more time to research and propose zoning bylaws for siting these alternative energy facilities in town.

A public hearing on both proposed moratoriums will be held on April 18 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall. Residents will decide the moratorium outcomes at their May 9 annual town meeting.

Planning Board member Edward Grinnell said the board has asked for annual town meeting to consider a year-long moratorium for wind-turbine proposals.

And this week, selectmen received a petition, signed by 11 residents, asking annual town meeting voters to consider a solar farm moratorium for any proposals that could produce more than 35 kilowatts of electricity. If approved, the moratorium would remain in effect until June 15, 2013.

The moratorium article presented in the petition was modeled on Heath’s recently adopted moratorium for both solar and wind-powered facilities producing more than 35 kilowatts.

“The reason that the petitioners … wanted to take this action is because our existing bylaws do not address solar installations in any detail,” said Janet Sinclair, who organized the petition. “We know that the state is promoting solar production, as well as wind, and creating very appealing financial incentives for these types of projects. It seems wise to have some language in place that reflects the town’s wishes … rather than being faced with some big proposal and forcing the Zoning Board, the proponents and the abutters to hash out some complex issues through a special permit process, as happened with biomass in Greenfield and wind in Shelburne.”

It also asks that no building permits be issued for construction of any large-scale photovoltaic system that would produce “more than 150 percent of the documented average annual use of a residential, commercial, business, municipal or agricultural application.”

Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said selectmen had already been discussing a solar facility moratorium before the citizens’ petition for the article was received.

At this point, town officials plan to post separate annual town meeting articles for the wind and solar moratoriums, so that residents can vote separately on each type.

Unlike nearby Shelburne, Buckland hasn’t received a commercial-scale proposal for wind turbines. However, the eight wind turbine proposal for Mount Massaemet in Shelburne drew a lot of interest among Buckland residents who said, at public meetings, that their community could also be affected by the Shelburne turbine facility.

Grinnell said the Buckland Planning Board would like the selectmen to appoint an advisory committee of residents to research and make recommendations on criteria for siting wind turbines and/or large-scale solar arrays.