BUCKLAND – Voters placed 13-month moratoriums on solar panel and wind turbine installations at Wednesday’s annual town meeting.
“These moratoriums will allow us sufficient time to address the effects of such structures in town,” said Planning Board Chairman John Gould. Rather than hastily crafting bylaws to regulate the size and other aspects of windmill or solar installations, the board wants the time to be thorough in drafting regulations.
The solar moratorium allows all sizes of roof-mounted installations, but limits ground-mounted panels to a 35 kilowatt output.
The moratorium on wind power is more stringent. It bars building permits for any size wind turbine.
There are no wind or large-scale solar projects proposed for Buckland now, but the Planning Board feels it is better to be ahead of the game.
“We believe we can (craft bylaws) better without the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, like they have next door in Shelburne.” The neighboring town has felt pressured to come up with such laws since a wind farm was proposed for Mount Massaemet.
The solar moratorium expires June 15, 2013, and the wind moratorium expires July 1, 2013.
After much debate, voters decided to table a proposed bylaw that would have given the town’s Conservation Commission the ability to impose fines and otherwise enforce violations of the Wetlands Protection Act.
Concerns raised by residents ranged form giving the commission too much power, to the fact that fines and other penalties were not included in the bylaw, and would be decided at a later date. Others felt there was too much room for discretion on what exactly constitutes a violation.
Not all were opposed to the bylaw.
“A law that can’t be enforced may as well not exist,” said resident Piyali Summer. “People are reasonable; they aren’t going to object to you picking a fiddlehead fern for you soup, or flipping a pussy willow for you vase,” she continued, responding to examples others gave of the ways the bylaw could be abused.
Hearing the concerns brought up, Finance Committee member Ben Murray made the motion to table the vote.
“From what I’m hearing, people want to support the Conservation Commission, they just want more clarity, a definition of boundaries, and the actions that can be taken (as enforcement),” he said.
Since it was tabled rather than defeated, the article could come up again at a future annual or special town meeting.
Residents approved a second and final motion to establish a municipal light plant, as well as a $1,000 joining fee to become part of Wire West. The move is to legally facilitate installation of cable for high-speed Internet service in town.
Wired West is a collaborative aimed at building high-speed Internet, phone, and cable infrastructure in 40 western Massachusetts towns. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute will install the “middle mile,” bringing fiber optic cable to town’s “anchor points,” like town hall and public safety departments. Wired West is responsible for the “last mile,” bringing that infrastructure from anchor points to the rest of the town.
The town approved $30,000 to supplement state funds for road repairs, though much more is needed.
“We had a study done a few years ago that found we needed $5 million to bring our roads up to standard condition, and that was before (Tropical Storm) Irene,” said Selectboard Chairman Robert Dean. “This is a drop in the bucket.”
Residents approved $10,000 for legal and engineering costs for a new public works facility, which the town plans.
Voters also approved $4 million, including a town operating budget of $1.5 million, as well as nearly $2 million for schools. The difference went to several capital articles as well as stabilization funds.
Residents voted to put a question to change Recreation Commission seats from elected to appointed on next year’s town election. if it passes, it will take effect the following year.
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