BUCKLAND – Like their Shelburne neighbors, Buckland voters will consider a year-long moratorium on windmills, giving the Buckland Planning Board time to research and develop a bylaw regulating wind-powered electricity generators.
But voters here will also consider a year-long moratorium on solar arrays producing more than 35 kilowatts of electricity.
This year’s annual town meeting takes place on Wednesday at the Town Hall, beginning at 7 p.m. A special town meeting, to pay some bills that were submitted for the 2011 fiscal year, starts at 6:30p.m.
In a financial report prepared for voters, the Finance Committee said the proposed budget shows a decrease in both revenues and expenses. As a result, if all budget requests are approved, the net result will be a 3 percent increase in the tax rate – or about $42 a year more on property valued at $100,000.
Also, this year the town took on short-term borrowing, to repair infrastructure damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene. Once the town has a clearer sense of the final cost and reimbursement to come from the Massachusetts and Federal emergency management agencies, town officials hope to convert the short-term borrowing into a long-term loan. The Finance Committee report says the combined storm damage costs could be several million dollars, although some of that will be paid for from Buckland’s stabilization fund savings.
The total town budget proposal of $4,044,600 represents a $43,097 decrease from the town’s current budget, including the town’s costs for wastewater treatment plant operations. There are no changes in stipends for elected officials, but town employees are to receive a nearly 3 percent cost-of-living increase. Also, election expenses have been raised from $3,500 to $7,500 to cover costs of this fall’s presidential election.
The town’s Mohawk Trail Regional School District assessment is basically level-funded for the operating budget, and capital costs for this year have dropped by $11,297. However, the Franklin County Technical School budget request has increased by $9,398.
If voters support a temporary wind turbine moratorium, no building permits for wind turbines will be issued until July 2013. The article states: “Based on the amount of controversy and questions that arose as a result of a proposed wind energy system in … Shelburne, it has become apparent that this is a very complex subject …. As a small rural town, we lack the expertise to move forward with confidence on a bylaw without further in-depth study, consultation and careful analysis on the impact to our community of wind generating facilities.”
At a recent public hearing on this article, the Planning Board said it is working with technical assistance provided by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to draft a wind bylaw.
A moratorium on large-scale solar photovoltaic systems was proposed by residents, to prevent solar farms in town until least June 15, 2013.The Planning Board recommends modifying the article’s language on town meeting floor to: “no building permit may be issued for the construction of any large-scale, ground-mounted photovoltaic system in capacity greater than 35 kilowatt …”
The Conservation Commission has requested the town enact a Wetlands Protection Bylaw, giving the Conservation Commission enforcement power on activities that violate wetlands protections.
Other requested costs are: $30,000 for road repair and paving costs; $1,500 to preserve town record books; $10,000 to be applied toward legal and engineering costs for a proposed public works facility, which will eventually replace the unusable old town garage, which was found to be structurally unsound m 2008.