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Buckland solar bylaw hearing next Thursday

The Buckland side of Shelburne Falls. Buckland residents will be voting on a solar zoning bylaw amendment Monday.
(Recorder/Micky Bedell)

The Buckland side of Shelburne Falls. Buckland residents will be voting on a solar zoning bylaw amendment Monday. (Recorder/Micky Bedell)

BUCKLAND — The Planning Board will hold a public hearing next Thursday night, Oct. 10, to get residents’ views on a proposed zoning bylaw for solar farms.

The public hearing begins at 7 in Town Hall. Copies of the draft bylaw are available from the town clerk’s office.

The proposal would require a special permit and site plan review for all electricity-generating systems occupying more than 1,000 square feet of land. No solar array that covers more than five acres will be allowed in town.

Solar arrays smaller than 1,000 square feet — connected either to homes, farms or businesses — are exempt from the special permit requirement; but they will need a building permit, must meet any applicable state and federal requirements and are subject to a site plan review.

Large-scale solar systems may be on adjacent lots, as long as they don’t exceed the five-acre maximum. The required site plan review will require: maps of the site; proposed changes to the landscape, along with lighting, vegetation clearing and screening; and location of wetlands, floodplains and location of historic districts. It will also require proof of liability insurance and financial surety.

Large-scale, grid-connected installations cannot be built until the Planning Board has evidence that the utility running the electrical grid is aware of the plans to construct an interconnected utility.

These solar farms must have 50-foot property setbacks, with all storage buildings, transformers or substations screened from view and no taller than 20 feet.

Other requirements are that the facility be designed to minimize impacts to agricultural land and to environmentally sensitive habitats.

If the use of the solar farm is discontinued, the owner will have up to 150 days to remove the structure. The owner will have to provide a form of surety in the event that the array is abandoned and the town is left to take down the structure.

Editor’s note: The incorrect date of the hearing was posted and has now been changed.

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