CHESHIRE -- Town Meeting adopted new bylaws on wind and solar energy and approved a $5.3 million fiscal 2015 budget and purchases of a Highway Department dump truck and Fire Department pumper Monday.

The town's new large wind energy facilities bylaw diminishes the prospect of industrial-scale wind turbines in Cheshire by requiring any turbine be set off from homes by at least a half-mile and emit limited noise.

The town's biggest proponent of commercial wind development, Francis "Bigs" Waterman of the Water Department, asked residents to delay a vote on the proposed bylaw.

"This bylaw basically says we cannot put wind turbines in the town of Cheshire. I think it's a little too restrictive," Waterman said. "It's a bylaw, once you vote on it, you own it."

Voters failed to be swayed, approving the bylaw by a margin of 87 to 27.

For years, Waterman has advocated exploring wind development for a 440-acre swath of town-owned land off West Mountain Road, which he believes suitable for the purpose.

The property falls well within a half-mile of people's homes, however, and with the new bylaw a potential developer would have a significantly harder time gaining permitting for a wind farm there.

"There's only four locations in the town of Cheshire that you could possibly put a windmill [under the new bylaw]," said town Planning Board member Stephen Marko. "I'm here trying to protect the town and the people in it, and I think we've done this."

The small energy systems and solar photovoltaic installations bylaws voters adopted Monday set forth basic regulations for those forms of energy generation as well.

Near-unanimous majorities supported empowering the treasurer to borrow $195,000 and $450,000 sums to replace Cheshire's 17-year-old dump truck and a 28-year-old fire engine.

The $5.3 million fiscal 2015 budget voters passed Monday represented a 6.3 percent increase in spending compared to the current plan. The municipal operating budget and education spending increased 3 and 9 percent, respectively.

The budget also scrapes below Proposition 2 1/2 by a mere $2,000 and -- after using $188,000 to reduce the tax rate -- leaves just $58,000 in free cash available until July 1, the lowest the account has been in many years.

"We don't have a lot of wiggle room in this budget," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.

Town Administrator Mark Webber said he'd like to see free cash kept higher in the future.

To reach Phil Demers:
pdemers@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD