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Adams mulls limiting solar, medical marijuana uses  

Harrington added wind energy to the list of unaddressed enterprises in Adams’ bylaws. Wind projects have caused controversy in other Berkshire County towns.

Adams has land for wind energy development, Duval said, so the board is hoping to address its bylaws before a proposal for a wind farm is made.

“It’s going to happen … so we’re not going to bury our heads in the sand,” Duval said.

Credit:  By Adam Shanks, North Adams Transcript | 10/22/2013 | www.thetranscript.com ~~

ADAMS – Town officials are looking to overhaul some town zoning bylaws in response to state laws that make solar developments and medical marijuana a growing reality.

The Board of Selectmen will hold a workshop meeting Wednesday to outline a plan and time frame for a zoning update.

Adams has not revised its solar bylaws for more than two decades and there are no specific regulations regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, according to Selectman Arthur Harrington said.

Selectmen Chair John Duval said the town would look at all bylaws, but “solar has come to the forefront.”

“The idea is that we want to review virtually all of them,” Duval said.

The town’s solar bylaws became the center of debate earlier this year. A proposed 6,700 solar panel array on East Road was determined to be a by-right use – meaning the town can only set conditions, but not prohibit a proposal – by town counsel under Adams’ zoning bylaws.

“Some of the comments were ‘[the bylaw] doesn’t pertain to today,’ ” and was written for solar panel use on home roofs, Duval said.

The project was eventually rejected by the Planning Board earlier this year, but could still be appealed. Several residents, many of whom are abutters to the proposal solar array, called for an update to the town’s aging solar bylaws in response to the proposal.

Harrington noted any new zoning laws would not affect the East Road solar project, but could address similar situations in the future.

Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said by updating its zoning bylaws, the board is “reacting to changes in state policy.”

The 2008 Green Communities Act has subsidized “net metering agreements,” which allow renewable energy companies to sell electricity through the grids of larger utilities, such as National Grid, at a discounted rate to the buyer. The law has encouraged the development of solar arrays such as the one proposed on East Road.

A 2012 law paved the way for the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts, causing many municipalities to ban or regulate such facilities.

Butler said that state marijuana laws conflict with federal regulations, complicating bylaw writing on a local level. Butler said Adams can’t write new laws “until we have much more specific guidance.”

Duval said the board is “going to hold on” before addressing marijuana bylaws. He added that he “thinks the board supports” medical marijuana dispensaries, but that it wanted bylaws so it can control where one could be built.

Harrington added wind energy to the list of unaddressed enterprises in Adams’ bylaws. Wind projects have caused controversy in other Berkshire County towns.

Adams has land for wind energy development, Duval said, so the board is hoping to address its bylaws before a proposal for a wind farm is made.

“It’s going to happen … so we’re not going to bury our heads in the sand,” Duval said.

Any changes to the zoning bylaws are initiated by the Board of Selectmen. The editing process will be handled by town staff, then sent to the Planning Board for public hearings.

Selectmen will have a final look at the proposals before putting them to a vote at town meeting.

“It’s not going to be anything quick,” Harrington said, but added that a new bylaw proposal could be complete by Town Meeting next year.

Harrington said Adams can use marijuana and solar bylaws adopted by local municipalities as a comparison.

“It isn’t like we have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to choose which wheel we’re going to use,” Harrington said. Berkshire Regional Planning Commission helps municipalities address these areas as well, Harrington said.

Source:  By Adam Shanks, North Adams Transcript | 10/22/2013 | www.thetranscript.com

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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