Vote on proposed zoning for large-scale solar arrays in Leyden delayed for further review

  • Leyden Planning Board members held a public hearing Wednesday at the Town Offices to discuss a proposed zoning bylaw for large-scale ground-mounted solar installations. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2021 3:59:45 PM

LEYDEN — Planning Board members decided Wednesday to dismiss the final article on Monday’s Annual Town Meeting warrant pertaining to large-scale ground-mounted solar arrays so that they may discuss a new, preferred zone for such projects.

The board held a public hearing Wednesday at the Town Offices to discuss the proposed bylaw outlining having town-owned, designated land behind the pavilion at Avery Field for solar arrays. Having the bylaw with as-of-right zoning for renewable energy generation is a criteria for being designated as a Green Community and to be eligible for the state’s Green Communities Designation and Grant Program.

However, during discussion Wednesday, Planning Board Chair James Brodeur read a letter from the Recreation Committee, whose members opposed the lot chosen for designation. The property behind the Avery Field pavilion had been suggested by the Selectboard. The letter expressed concern with the location and its potential impact on recreational use of Avery Field.

Municipal Assistant Michele Giarusso asked about the possibility of amending the bylaw at Annual Town Meeting, but Brodeur said he did not think this was possible. Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) Senior Land Use and Natural Resources Planner Alyssa Larose said officials could look at other town parcels to see what may be a better fit, but they would not be able to make these changes in time for Monday’s Annual Town Meeting.

“Whatever is designated ideally should be a viable site where solar could go at some point,” Larose said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen or that the town is going to put anything there, but the intent is that it’s a possibility sometime down the line.”

With the objection from the Recreation Committee and interest in further deliberation, Planning Board members recommended passing over Article 21 at Town Meeting. The Planning Board will reconvene on July 14, at 7 p.m.

In crafting other aspects of the bylaw, Brodeur said the Planning Board used an example provided by FRCOG and a bylaw from the town of Heath. The example from FRCOG suggested anything over 250 kilowatts be defined as large-scale, but Heath had changed this to consider anything with over a 25-kilowatt capacity large-scale. Brodeur said the Planning Board followed Heath’s example and set 25-kilowatts as the minimum, noting that the average residential solar installation produces around 11 kilowatts of power.

Larose and Planning Board members said that another avenue the town could consider, instead of designating a specific town-owned lot, would be to establish a larger zoned area and create a solar overlay district. This would give residents in the designated area the ability by right to put in solar without having to get a special permit, Brodeur said. Residents in the designated area would “just have to follow the rules” in the bylaw, and could avoid going through “a lengthy process” of hearings. As-of-right development may be subject to site plan review to conform to local zoning ordinances or bylaws. Projects cannot be prohibited, but can be reasonably regulated by the building inspector.

“The idea is to make it easy, somewhere in town, to do solar,” Brodeur said. “What I think it does for us is if somewhere else in town somebody wants to do solar, we have some guidelines to start with. They would have to get a special permit, and we can use a lot of the information that’s in here to control that new special permit for an area that’s not designated.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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