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Buckland drafts commercial solar bylaw

Recorder file photo/Mike Phillips
This Athol solar array is of the sort that would be regulated by Buckland's new solar photovoltaic bylaw.

Recorder file photo/Mike Phillips This Athol solar array is of the sort that would be regulated by Buckland's new solar photovoltaic bylaw.

BUCKLAND — The Planning Board has developed a bylaw plan for commercial, ground-mounted solar electric generating facilities and will hold a public hearing on that bylaw plan on April 2 in the Town Hall.

Currently, solar photovoltaic systems that take up less than 1,000 square feet near homes, barns or businesses are already permitted, subject to a site plan review, required building permits and the town’s set-back requirements.

At last year’s annual town meeting, the town placed a moratorium on solar array systems generating more than 35 kilowatts of energy, to give the Planning Board enough time to craft a bylaw that would provide clear guidelines for any large-scale solar array.

Copies of the proposed plan are available at Town Hall.

This draft bylaw proposal is for electricity-generating, ground-mounted solar arrays that might cover up to five acres of land in the rural-residential, commercial, historic-industrial, or industrial zoned town districts. The town does not allow solar arrays covering more than five acres.

Under this plan, a commercial-scale solar array would require a special permit and site plan review, site plans, signed by an engineer licensed to work in the state, which designates property lines, proposed changes to the landscape, locations of wetlands and permanently protected space. Also, it should give locations of floodplains, historic districts, blueprints, electrical diagram detail, and documentation about the major components to be used.

The developer would provide an operations and maintenance plan, and a landscape plan that includes at least 30 feet of screening, using native trees and shrubs, staggered for height and density.

Setback requirements for large solar systems would be at least 50 feet from the front, sides and rear borders of the property.

Outside lighting will be limited to that required for safety and operational purposes, with fixtures designed to reduce light pollution.

Noise levels would not be allowed to exceed 5 decibels above the pre-construction background noise levels. The Fire Department must be given copies of the site plan and electrical schematic, for emergency situations, and all means of shutting down solar electric installations must be clearly marked.

When the facility is no longer used, it must be taken down within 150 days after the date of discontinued operations. If it is abandoned, and has not been taken down within 150 days, the town would have the right to seek a court order to enter the property and remove the facility, with the town’s cost to be charged to the facility owner.

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