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Board: Biomass petition needs rewrite

Says moratorium proposal written too broadly

GREENFIELD — The Planning Board has decided to wait to make a recommendation on a citizens petition to stop large-scale biomass wood-burning facilities from being built in Greenfield for the next year and a half until those who created it “tighten up” the language.

The five-member board said Thursday night it is concerned that the current moratorium proposal, as written, is too broad in its meaning, and could end up stopping other types of facilities, even smaller ones, from being built.

The board plans to meet in early April and, at that time, will develop a list of its concerns to send to the citizens so that they can craft a moratorium the board might be able to get behind.

Town Council will eventually vote on whether to put the moratorium in place in Greenfield.

The council’s Economic Development Committee held a joint public hearing with the Planning Board recently and the full council and citizens presenting the moratorium had hoped the full council vote would happen during its April meeting.

Most likely that will not occur, because if the authors of the moratorium listen to the board, they will have to present a new moratorium. If that happens, another public hearing will have to be held to discuss the changes. Then, the board and council committee would make their recommendations to the full council.

It is possible the moratorium could still reach the council by mid-April, but more likely it will be mid-May before that happens.

The moratorium would last until September 2014 — biomass opponents have said that would give the town and others more time to study biomass and the harmful effects it may have on those who live near plants like the 47-megawatt wood-burning power plant planned for Butternut Street in the industrial park.

“This moratorium is going to affect us for the next year and a half,” said board member James Allen. “I need more information and more time before making a decision.”

Members Mary Newton and Linda Smith concurred, though they both agreed the timing is perfect to talk about what the town wants and needs in terms of renewable energy, because the board is currently working with the Sustainable Master Plan Advisory Committee to review and revise the town’s master plan.

“I’m not sure what they are trying to accomplish with this moratorium,” said board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner.

“The way it was written, it is too sloppy and too broad. If the issue is about burning anything, then there needs to be a better definition and it needs to be clear.” Wedegartner said the authors of the moratorium also need to define waste energy, which they currently include in the moratorium, but do not define well.

The board discussed whether the power plant planned for the Interstate 91 Industrial Park would be subject to the moratorium.

After a couple years in court, because of an appeal filed by opponents, a judge has ruled, based on an agreement between the company that wants to build the Pioneer Renewable Energy plant and those who filed the appeal, that the project needs to go back to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals for an amended special permit.

The plant was originally going to use the town’s treated waste water in its wet cooling system, but has decided to use a dry method, instead. Because of the change, the project must receive a new, or amended, special permit from the town.

The board seemed to think that because that plant was already issued a special permit by the town, it would not fall under the moratorium.

Town Council President David Singer, who is a lawyer, said he isn’t sure that would be the case — that it might be subject to the terms of the moratorium.

The bottom line, the board said, is that the proposed moratorium is not clear in its intentions, and therefore, the board has no intention of making a positive recommendation to the council until it is.

Singer said the council wants the Planning Board’s input, so will wait for its decision, even if that means delaying the vote for a month.

The Planning Board will meet next on April 4.

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