Greenfield proposed solar rules headed for review

GREENFIELD — A Town Council committee has revamped proposed changes to the town’s solar rules, and those changes are now headed to the Planning Board for review.

The Planning Board went to the full council earlier this year with its version of new rules for large-scale solar arrays like those on the town’s capped landfill, but most of the 13 councilors felt the rules weren’t strong enough, so the full council eventually ended up tabling the proposal, which sent it back to the drawing board.

The Town Council’s Economic Development Committee worked with the board in the following months, but when it came back to the council last month, some councilors still were not satisfied, so the issue was tabled again.

The EDC, which is headed by At-large Councilor Patrick Devlin, has been working on the most recent changes since mid-September and at one of its meetings in early October, spoke with Planning Board member Linda Smith and town Planning and Development Director Eric Twarog about those changes.

Many of those changes were to strengthen language, not change what the board originally intended.

Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner was out of town on business during that time, but has since read through the changes and said she doesn’t have many problems with them.

“The only concern I have is about the fees that might be incurred for a special permit,” she said. “But, we do have some ability to waive all or part of that fee, if we see fit.”

According to the changes, a large-scale solar array would have to be set back at least 50 feet at the front of a property and 25 feet at the side and rear. That type of array would not be allowed to exceed 20 feet in height.

Large solar arrays would have to be screened by a minimum 15-foot-wide, staggered and grouped planting of native shrubs and small trees.

They would be allowed in the town’s rural residential (RC) and suburban residential (RB) districts, and the general commercial (GC) and office (O) districts by special permit and in the town’s two industrial districts by right.

They would not be allowed, under any circumstances, in any other district.

Anyone installing a large solar array would have to provide the town with a list of hazardous materials proposed to be located on the site during installation and would have to provide documentation by an acoustical engineer of the projected noise levels during installation.

The council will decide Wednesday which direction it wants to go in next with the changes and the Planning Board will do the same on Thursday.

Public hearings will have to be held by both the board and the council committee before either takes a vote and the rules become permanent.

Town Council will meet Wednesday night at 7 in the studio at Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St.

The Planning Board will meet Thursday night at 7 in the meeting room at the police station on High Street.

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