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Colrain sees solar bylaw, highway truck on annual town meeting warrant

COLRAIN – Annual town meeting voters will be asked to approve new zoning bylaws for commercial campgrounds and large-scale solar farms, and moratoriums on large-scale wind farms and medical marijuana dispensaries at the May 6 annual town meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Colrain Central School.

The proposal for large-scale ground-mounted photovoltaic systems defines “large-scale” as systems occupying more than a quarter-acre. (Smaller systems are exempted from this bylaw.) But those building a system of up to one acre will require a site plan review with the Planning Board, while those building a ground-mounted array of more than an acre will also require a special permit. These systems will be required to have 50-foot setbacks, vegetative screening, and may not increase the ambient sound level by more than 10 decibels. The system must have access roads for emergency vehicles and be maintained to a level acceptable to the fire chief and medical emergency services. There are also provisions for taking down the system after it is no longer in use or is abandoned.

The Planning Board is asking residents to approve a 12-month moratorium on wind farms to give the board more time to develop a bylaw for such facilities. If the moratorium is approved, there will be no building permits for wind facilities generating more than 35 kilowatts until May 2015.

If the moratorium is adopted for medical marijuana treatment centers, no such facilities would be able to operate in Colrain until May 2015.

If approved, “commercial campgrounds” of 30 acres or more could be used for part-time occupancy for no more than 90 days, with a maximum of 30 camper vehicles or tent sites allowed. Also campgrounds could not be placed closer than 150 feet to a road or a lot line. A two-thirds majority vote is required for approval.

Like other Mohawk Trail School District member towns, Colrain election voters and town meeting voters will be asked to allow the district to borrow money for a capital improvement plan that includes repairs to the Colrain Central School and the Mohawk Trail Regional School.

The town is seeking $11,985 for central air conditioning for the Griswold Memorial Library and $3,000 for smoke- and fire-detection equipment at the library.

An article asks the town for $150,000 for a new “glider kit” and related equipment, which would give the Highway Department a practically new 10-wheeler truck with a rebuilt engine. The money for this would come from the town’s Chapter 90 highway funds. However, the town may borrow the sum and then repay the loan with Chapter 90 money over the next four years. The Highway Department is also asking for money transfers to be used to purchase a new dump truck body.

The requested town operating budget of $1,356,109 represents a 9.5 percent increase over this year’s budget of $1,237,555.

Requested school operating and capital assessments for the coming school year include: Franklin County Technical School $273,547; Mohawk Trail Regional School District $1,655,789 operating costs, and $45,962 capital costs; Smith Vocational and Agricultural School, $28,000.

The town will ask for $4,000 to start a Technology Stabilization Fund for the future purchase of technology-related equipment.