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Dartmouth Select Board withdraws proposed solar bylaw amendment from June warrant

DARTMOUTH – Less than one week after special Town Meeting voted to amend Dartmouth’s solar bylaw, the Select Board withdrew its own proposed bylaw change from June’s warrant.

“I think that the Planning Board will work on a bylaw for the October Town Meeting that hopefully will win the support of all parties involved,” said Select Board member Michael Watson before the board’s unanimous vote Monday night. “I don’t see any benefit at all to continually ask Town Meeting to amend bylaw after bylaw after bylaw. … Let’s take the six months, try to get it right.”

Monday’s vote comes on the heels of last week’s special Town Meeting at which members approved a bylaw amendment to bar large-scale solar projects from residential zones. At the special Town Meeting, Planning Director Donald Perry said the Planning Board was supporting this change as a “temporary moratorium” until a revised bylaw could be developed for consideration at fall Town Meeting.

The special Town Meeting was called for by petition in the midst of concerns about the large solar farm ConEdison Development has built in a residential neighborhood on Hixville Road.

In the meantime, the Select Board responded to residents’ complaints by working on a bylaw amendment of its own. Town Meeting members would have considered that proposal at the annual meeting in June.

The Select Board’s bylaw change, which was still under development, included dictating that these projects undergo site plan review and altering setback requirements. Lara Stone, the board’s chairman, said any information and research gathered in connection with the board’s bylaw change is being made available to the planning director and Planning Board.

At Monday’s meeting, William Trimble, who has repeatedly spoken against the recently approved bylaw amendment, again cited a state law that prevents towns from prohibiting or unreasonably regulating solar energy facilities.

By prohibiting large solar projects in residential areas, Trimble warned Town Meeting last week “I think it’s quite likely that we’ll end up in court.”

Also Monday, the Select Board voted to recommend a separate bylaw amendment on June’s Town Meeting warrant that would restrict commercial-scale wind turbines to zoning districts marked “General Industrial” and “Limited Industrial.”

Trimble was the lone member Monday to vote against recommending the Planning Board-sponsored article.

“I think that this article is a mistake and I’ll vote against it,” he said.

He argued that because of the industrial zones’ proximity to the New Bedford Regional Airport, limiting commercial-scale wind turbines to these areas is “essentially saying we won’t allow them in the town of Dartmouth.”

Board member Joseph Michaud took a different tack.

It’s “a fundamental right of every community to develop their land … as they see fit,” he said.