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Board makes no recommendation on biomass petition

GREENFIELD — The town’s Planning Board has decided not to send a recommendation to Town Council concerning a citizens petition to stop large-scale biomass wood-burning facilities from being built in Greenfield.

The five-member board could not agree on whether to send a recommendation that the “unclear” petition penned by Shelburne Falls resident Janet Sinclair be rewritten, or to send a negative recommendation, so it decided to send no recommendation at all.

But, members did tell the public and four councilors who attended its meeting, including President David Singer, how each felt about the matter.

While Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner said she does not believe in moratoriums, except in extreme cases, and therefore would not recommend the citizens’ petition, members Linda Smith and Mary Newton said they would support such a petition so that the town would have some time to look into the pros and cons of such facilities being built in Greenfield, but felt the language of the current petition is too loose, broad and unclear.

Members Clayton Sibley and James Allen said they would have voted for a negative recommendation.

In the end, four members voted not to send a recommendation and Wedegartner did not vote.

The concern of the board about the petition has been that, as written, it is too broad in its meaning, and could end up stopping other types of facilities, even smaller ones, from being built.

If Town Council votes for the moratorium as written, it 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 plant proposed for Butternut Street in the industrial park.

Wedegartner said she is not sure what the author and those who signed the petition are trying to accomplish. She said she feels it is “sloppy.”

“If the issue is about burning anything, then there needs to be a better definition and that needs to be clear (in the petition),” she has reiterated several times. “The author or authors also have to define waste energy, which they currently include in the moratorium, but do not define well.”

It still is not clear whether the plant, which has already been permitted but must go back before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to amend that permit, would be affected by the moratorium.

It appears Town Council will vote on the petition at its meeting on April 17, which begins at 7 p.m. in the studio in Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St.

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