Leyden designated as Green Community, commits to reducing municipal energy consumption

Leyden Town Hall.

Leyden Town Hall. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By SAM FERLAND

For the Recorder

Published: 05-29-2024 3:57 PM

LEYDEN — After making a commitment to reduce municipal energy consumption by 20% within the next five years, Leyden has been designated as a Green Community by the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER).

This designation opens the door for the town to apply for an initial non-competitive grant of $126,540 toward energy-efficiency projects.

“I am just so moved and grateful for the teams of people that have stepped up,” said Selectboard member Glenn Caffery, who led the charge for Leyden to become a Green Community. “Towns like ours need that, and so many people that are so smart and so community-oriented have done brilliant work.”

With this most recent round of Green Communities declarations, which also included Gosnold, Newbury and Peabody, there are now 295 Green Communities in Massachusetts. In Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, Monroe and Phillipston are the only towns that have not become Green Communities, according to a map provided by the DOER.

“We are so proud to welcome Gosnold, Leyden, Newbury and Peabody as our newest Green Communities, and to provide funding that helps stretch municipal budgets as communities fight climate change at the local level,” DOER Commissioner Elizabeth Mahony said in a statement. “When our cities and towns decrease emissions from their buildings and fleets, they create more affordable, healthful places to live and work while helping accelerate Massachusetts’ clean energy transition.”

Caffery gave credit to the boards and professionals involved in the multi-year process, which required four criteria to be met alongside an Energy Reduction Plan to reduce energy use by 20% by 2029. All criteria are outlined by the DOER’s Green Communities Designation and Grant Program under the Green Communities Act of 2008. The program is operated by the Green Communities Division under the DOER, which aims to provide funding in support of communities’ renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, according to the DOER.

The Selectboard has 90 days from April 24, the date of the designation, to submit a grant application to receive the $126,540. The town is also working to identify priorities for the funds. The application requires a plan for designing municipal buildings to be more energy-efficient.

“That’s what we’re doing now,” Caffery explained. “It’s exciting. We’ve been really fortunate the last two years to have a huge investment of volunteers in town who stepped up, both formally and informally.”

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Current areas of focus for the town are buildings that require better insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs. These include the Town Hall, Town Offices and public safety buildings, according to Caffery and Selectboard member Katherine DiMatteo.

“It is rewarding to see the interest of our citizens in these initiatives that advance our town’s sustainability and resilience,” DiMatteo wrote in an email to the Recorder. “I am most grateful to those who have led the initiatives — the Planning Board, Solar Advisory Committee and the Building Needs Study Committee.”

In March, the town began searching for volunteers to be a part of a new Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee, to help plan for future projects while keeping Leyden residents’ best interests at heart. The committee will tackle several other issues that need to be addressed.

Among the criteria for the Green Communities application is to help municipalities produce more solar energy, which required the creation of a solar zoning bylaw. The Solar Advisory Committee and the Planning Board were successful in crafting this bylaw, which enables the town to construct solar projects in effective and safe areas. These groups worked with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Clean Energy Extension, which created an assessment to help develop the bylaw, identify different types of solar facilities that could be developed and locate areas available for construction, according to Caffery.

Along with solar zoning, a “stretch code” is required to minimize newly constructed buildings’ “life-cycle cost” by requiring them to be built in a way that uses significantly less energy than buildings that fall under other previous and current building codes, according to the DOER.

“It was challenging and ultimately inspiring to become a Green Community,” Planning Board member Sarah Bartholomew wrote an email to the Recorder. “I’m very proud of all of us who supported this process; it was a real victory. As a small town we need to court new revenue streams in the form of grants and create a vision for a deeply sustainable future.”

More information on Green Communities can be found at tinyurl.com/3axy963e.