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Heath approves wind/solar moratorium  

During the debate, State Rep. Paul Mark said he had been assured by the chair of the Legislature's Energy Committee, State Sen. Ben Downing, that the effort to pass Wind Energy Siting Reform legislation was "dead for this year," which Mark said was largely the result of concerns raised by small communities about the possible impact it could have on local control of wind and solar project construction.

Credit:  By Chris Collins | Shelburne Falls & West County Independent | 18 May 2012 ~~

Residents here have sent a clear message that they will be the ones to decide the future of wind and solar power here, not the Commonwealth.

Heath annual town meeting voters on Saturday, May 12 voted unanimously to approve a moratorium on new wind and solar projects, as well as to allow Moderator Douglas Wilkins to call a special town meeting later in the year to allow the town to pass its own solar and wind zoning bylaws should the state pass regulations before next July 31.

“We need time to gather the information and prepare these bylaws,” Heath Planning Board Chair Calvin Carr said. “We are looking out for the welfare of this town and the people that live in it.”

Wilkins asked for meeting approval in a voice vote allowing for the special town meetings, if necessary, which he said is unusual, as it is customary for annual town meeting to decide such issues. There was no opposition to either vote.

During the debate, State Rep. Paul Mark said he had been assured by the chair of the Legislature’s Energy Committee, State Sen. Ben Downing, that the effort to pass Wind Energy Siting Reform legislation was “dead for this year,” which Mark said was largely the result of concerns raised by small communities about the possible impact it could have on local control of wind and solar project construction.

Town meeting voters also approved the entire omnibus budget, with one exception, rejecting a $1,000 municipal plant lighting assessment (part of the Wired West Internet access initiative), which was revealed to be unnecessary because the one-time fee had already been paid.

The total amount approved was $1,130,669, which represents a roughly seven percent increase over last year’s spending plan.

Voters passed over a number of articles, most notably a $30,000 article for a feasibility study on a new municipal office complex. The article was passed over after questions were raised about how to pay for the study. Municipal Complex Study Committee Chair Bob Bourke said the committee has already identified a possible 17-acre site off Bray Road and the money will be used to study the feasibility of putting the facility on that site.

Voters also passed over an article brought forward by the Board of Health asking that the town accept a section of Massachusetts General Law which allows town boards and officers to set certain fees. The measure was sent back for further study after questions were raised about which entity would have final say at the level to which those fees may increase. A request for $100,000 to study town bridges was passed over when it was revealed that federal funding was now available for that study.

The uplifting moment of the day came when voters approved making the final $50,372 payment on the Health Elementary School construction project.

Other items approved Saturday include:

• $738,606 Mohawk Trail Regional School District operating assessment and a $5,354 capital assessment.

• $74,938 for Franklin County Technical School operating assessment and a $1,254 capital assessment.

Establishment of a revolving accounts for the Senior Center Commission, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Health and the dog officer.

• Transferred $50,000 from surplus cash to reduce taxes.

• Transferred $25,000 from surplus cash to the stabilization fund.

Source:  By Chris Collins | Shelburne Falls & West County Independent | 18 May 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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