DARTMOUTH – Town Meeting members Tuesday approved a bylaw change that restricts commercial-scale wind turbines to industrial zones.
The action comes on the heels of an April special Town Meeting at which voters barred large solar projects from residential neighborhoods.
The wind turbine article, which was recommended by both the Finance Committee and Select Board, easily passed by the required two-thirds majority vote.
The bylaw change limits wind projects greater than 10 kilowatts to general industrial and limited industrial zones, according to Planning Director Donald Perry. He said the change doesn’t allow for an exception through a variance.
Zoning changes go into effect immediately, subject to approval by the Attorney General’s Office, said Town Counsel Anthony Savastano.
Select Board member William Trimble made the sole attempt to change the article; he proposed an amendment that would have prohibited commercial-scale turbines anywhere in Dartmouth.
“I fully support the technology of wind turbine generation but there is no suitable place in any limited or general industrial district in the town,” he said, echoing his previously stated concern about these zones’ proximity to New Bedford Regional Airport. “I think we’d just be better off just (saving) everyone the effort and just say we don’t allow them.”
Trimble withdrew his amendment after Savastano said he was worried Town Meeting didn’t have the authority to make a zoning article even more restrictive without first having it discussed at a public hearing.
Also at Town Meeting, members passed a fiscal 2013 budget of $71.5 million, which represents an increase of about $1.7 million, or 2.5 percent, over the current budget of $69.8 million. The budget includes a $33.1 million general operating budget for Dartmouth Public Schools. It also funds the Youth Commission, despite an earlier vote by the Finance Committee – which members later reversed – not to recommend the expense.
One of Tuesday’s most-discussed articles was the recreation revolving fund, which pays for recreation programs through collected revenues. The article caps money that can be spent from that account next year at $65,000. Town Meeting approved the article despite the Finance Committee’s earlier vote not to recommend it.
“We do not believe that $65,000 is needed for the revolving account. We would like to see something less,” said Finance Committee Chairman Mary Louise Nunes. She also said the committee believes a portion of Director of Parks & Recreation Timothy Lancaster’s salary should be charged to the account. Lancaster countered that program revenue isn’t a reliable stream for a fixed cost like an annual salary. He also stressed that none of the account’s funding comes from taxes.
“You are not appropriating $65,000,” he said. “All you’re doing is authorizing us to expend money that we bring in from the children and the parents to pay out to other programs.”
In other action Tuesday, Town Meeting approved capital items, ranging from library windows to Water Pollution Control facility upgrades, and approved a new dog bylaw. Along with other changes, the bylaw defines dangerous dogs, defines the responsibilities of a dog hearing officer to deal with dog-related issues and also states that dogs that aren’t owned by kennels can only have one litter of puppies annually.
“Is there anyone that’s going to tell the dogs that they can’t get pregnant more than once a year?” asked Town Meeting member George Ripley to laughter. “It seems to me that the fines are very punitive when someone has a female dog that has a little bit of a social life.”
The new bylaw holds owners responsible for their dogs’ behavior, according to Director of Public Health Wendy Henderson.
All told, members approved 39 articles at Tuesday’s annual and special town meetings. The less than six-hour session at Dartmouth Middle School opened with 212 meeting members present, well over the 160 needed for a quorum, according to Moderator Melissa Haskell.
“I think you try to do the hard work on contentious issues ahead of time if you can so what you present to Town Meeting is clear,” said Lara Stone, chairman of the Select Board. She credited Haskell’s work streamlining the process and said the meeting’s procedure was “smooth, clean and crisp.”
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