Mattapoisett to form subcommittee to determine solar bylaws
MATTAPOISETT – The Planning Board will form a subcommittee to review solar zoning bylaws rather than send the issue to the next Town Meeting, the board agreed after a public hearing Monday, March 21.
Currently, the town has no bylaws in place for solar zoning, only information that helps assessors tax solar.
“This bylaw is strictly on regulating the construction of solar facilities in town,” explained Town Administrator Mike Lorenco.
The details are still being determined, but a new bylaw would potentially regulate solar voltage depending on size and location.
“We have some concerns that the current bylaw is too stringent and might prohibit rather than regulate,” Lorenco added.
Russell Chase, who goes by “Chip’,’’ expressed this exact concern about the proposed bylaws.
“The regulations are pretty onerous,” Chase said.
These bylaws will not make it to the next Town Meeting. The goal of Tuesday’s meeting was to refocus and figure out what would need to be done in order to prepare the bylaws for next spring.
Town Counsel Matt Thomas advised the board to exercise caution for a number of reasons. One of those is a State Supreme Court case titled Tracer Lane II Realty v. the City of Waltham and William L. Forte that involves solar regulations.
“They were building a solar facility in Lexington, but the access road went through Waltham residential [areas] where they don’t allow solar,” explained Thomas. “The case bubbled all the way to the Supreme Court.” His opinion was to wait until the court had made a decision.
He also noted that prohibition on placing solar on agricultural land would be an issue, because “it has a great co-use when it’s done correctly” and advised that it was better for the bylaws to regulate projects by kilowatts rather than size because “tech is changing radically” and “you can fit more production out of a smaller area now than you could before.”
Thomas advised that the Planning Board take the time to specifically adjust the bylaws to Mattapoisett.
“A custom-tailored suit fits better than off the rack, and that’s what we want to do with Mattapoisett.”
Mike Huguenin of the Mattapoisett Land Trust was wary of the proposed bylaws. The Bowman Road solar project abuts 40 acres of land trust property.
He voiced concerns that the facility was in the zone of category 3 and 4 hurricanes. He also suggested that stormwater management should be added, and that the town should have financial assurances in place if solar operators are not maintaining their systems.
Planning board member Karen Field noted that when she took a drive by the Bowman Road facility, it was “rather messy-looking” and there was “rubbish strewn around.”
Planning board chair Thomas Tucker then moved to a vote for a subcommittee. “We won’t have this ready for the upcoming Town Meeting,” he said.
Committee members unanimously agreed to form a subcommittee of 7-9 members, which will include two members of the planning board and an assessor.
Lorenco said that anyone interested in being on the subcommittee should reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Operations and Project Administrator Katie Desrosiers at email@example.com.