Debate over Barrington solar rules rises again

Wednesday June 20, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON --Discussions of a solar bylaw appear to be back on the table.

The Select Board on Tuesday reviewed the results of a solar energy workshop the town held on May 21, where more than 50 people voiced a variety of opinions.

According to an executive summary presented by Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell, those in attendance at the workshop said there were some issues with solar that should be reviewed through a permitting process.

Board members said they need to make a decision one way or the other on a bylaw and they appeared to be willing to go ahead with crafting regulations that would involve other town boards, including the Planning Board.

But before taking that step, O'Donnell said he would draft a policy statement outlining the town's goals for renewable energy. The idea of having a policy in place before writing regulations drew praise from Selectwoman Deborah Phillips.

"We have to know where were going before we craft bylaws to get there," said Phillips.

Selectwoman Alana Chernila said there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed, and the town should look into hiring someone to oversee all the town's energy matters. Board members agreed that is something worth pursuing.

Discussion of a solar bylaw sprang from a presentation to the Planning Board last fall in which a Connecticut company expressed preliminary interest in building a large-scale solar array on farm land off Seekonk Road. The company is yet to formally submit its plan to the town, but the idea drew immediate ire from neighbors and some of the town's elected officials.

The Select Board asked the Planning Board to create a draft bylaw in time for May's annual town meeting, but the Planning Board opted against, saying regulation would deter interested parties.

An article at town meeting asking to place a one-year prohibition on large-scale solar was defeated.

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