Town Meeting adopted new bylaws on wind and solar energy and approved a $5.3 million fiscal 2015 budget and purchases of a Highway Department dump truck and Fire Department pumper Monday.
The town’s new large wind energy facilities bylaw diminishes the prospect of industrial-scale wind turbines in Cheshire by requiring any turbine be set off from homes by at least a half-mile and emit limited noise.
The town’s biggest proponent of commercial wind development, Francis “Bigs” Waterman of the Water Department, asked residents to delay a vote on the proposed bylaw.
“This bylaw basically says we cannot put wind turbines in the town of Cheshire. I think it’s a little too restrictive,” Waterman said. “It’s a bylaw, once you vote on it, you own it.”
Voters failed to be swayed, approving the bylaw by a margin of 87 to 27.
For years, Waterman has advocated exploring wind development for a 440-acre swath of town-owned land off West Mountain Road, which he believes suitable for the purpose.
The property falls well within a half-mile of people’s homes, however, and with the new bylaw a potential developer would have a significantly harder time gaining permitting for a wind farm there.
“There’s only four locations in the town of Cheshire that you could possibly put a windmill [under the new bylaw],” said town Planning Board member Stephen Marko. “I’m here trying to protect the town and the people in it, and I think we’ve done this.”
The small energy systems and solar photovoltaic installations bylaws voters adopted Monday set forth basic regulations for those forms of energy generation as well.
Near-unanimous majorities supported empowering the treasurer to borrow $195,000 and $450,000 sums to replace Cheshire’s 17-year-old dump truck and a 28-year-old fire engine.
The $5.3 million fiscal 2015 budget voters passed Monday represented a 6.3 percent increase in spending compared to the current plan. The municipal operating budget and education spending increased 3 and 9 percent, respectively.
The budget also scrapes below Proposition 2 1/2 by a mere $2,000 and – after using $188,000 to reduce the tax rate – leaves just $58,000 in free cash available until July 1, the lowest the account has been in many years.
“We don’t have a lot of wiggle room in this budget,” Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.
Town Administrator Mark Webber said he’d like to see free cash kept higher in the future.
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