Adams Selectmen Discuss Solar Bylaw, Procedure

November 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips


The Selectmen on Wednesday discussed the conundrum of passing a moratorium on or changing zoning laws for solar arrays.

ADAMS, Mass.  — Contentious decisions over the construction of a massive solar array has led to larger questions on Wednesday about the town’s governmental processes.

A discussion of a moratorium on solar projects by the Board of Selectmen during its meeting at Town Hall evolved into questions of procedure throughout other town boards.

The moratorium agenda item came at the request of Selectman Joseph Nowak, who said he has been working with Director of Community Development Donna Cesan and Planning Board members Barbara Ziemba and Martha Stohlmann on the matter. He is concerned that the process of creating a solar bylaw will necessitate a town meeting and lead to troubleshooting other zoning issues, which could prove infeasible.

“There’s a lot of hoops to jump through. We would have to work hard to get the bylaw up and running in this community,” Nowak said.

Town Administrator Jonathon Butler said it is the intention of the Selectmen to create a solar bylaw and schedule a Planning Board meeting for mid-December, a special town meeting in January and have the entire process completed no later than March. Butler said any moratorium would require the same procedural steps, which could cause redundancy.

“Why do both? Why not resolve all our concerns within the bylaw, get the bylaw done as quickly as possible and get this problem behind us?” Butler said.

According to Town Counsel Edmund St. John III, any moratorium would need to follow the same legal procedure as the creation of a bylaw, including approval at the annual town meeting. However, the state must also approve a moratorium, which is not a guarantee.

St. John likened the solar bylaw issue to moratoriums placed on medical marijuana dispensaries by municipalities statewide, with one exception: laws created for medical marijuana are brand new, unlike the contentious MGA Chapter 40A, section 3 concerning the town’s solar bylaw.

In relation to medical marijuana, St. John said that the attorney general’s opinion is such that municipalities, “had time to catch their collective breath and go through the process to determine what they need to do to come up with some reasonable regulations,” to deal with the new legislation. The portion of state law being applied to the town’s solar bylaw dates back to 1985, making it questionable whether or not a moratorium would be upheld under criticism.

“Whether we can propose a moratorium, have it pass town meeting and have it pass scrutiny from the attorney general’s office is debatable,” St. John said.

Chairman John Duval said the board needs to audit its zoning bylaws because of current and pending issues the town faces about the prevalence of medical marijuana and solar and wind energy.

Peter West, vice chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals who was a member of the audience, offered his opinion, saying that members of the ZBA requested joint-training sessions in the past, going so far as to ask for the Board of Selectmen’s help in scheduling those collaborative meetings, to no avail.

West also said he has never seen any formal policy as to the proper practices of the ZBA. Selectmen Vice Chairman Michael Ouellette elicited the help of former ZBA member Jeffrey Lefebvre in recalling a procedural document created in the past titled “Adopted Rules of Order for referencing proper protocol.”

In other business, the board, acting as the Licensing Board, granted Adams Ale House at 8-10 East Hoosac St. an annual liquor license, under the condition that all of its servers are TIPs certified — the same provision imposed on the Park Street Firehouse two weeks ago. State legislation permitted the town an additional liquor license specifically for this location.

According to St. John, should the town revoke the license for any reason, it will cease to be available. However, should the business change ownership, the new owners are eligible for the liquor license.

In the town administrator’s report, Butler said the town will be in a period of transition in finding replacements for two employees. Superintendent of the Department of Public Works Thomas Satko formally announced his retirement after 39 years of service. He will continue working until March.

Building Inspector David Pelletier submitted his letter of resignation to pursue a different direction in his career. His departure will be effective at the end of the calendar year.

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