Overlay Districts For Solar Energy Projects Proposed

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By: Diana T. Barth
Published: 09/08/11

A proposal to allow large, ground-mounted solar panels to be installed in certain areas of town without needing a special permit is heading to Bourne’s October 17 Special Town Meeting.

At the end of last month, Richard Elrick, Bourne’s energy coordinator, visited the Bourne Planning Board to ask members to consider supporting a zoning bylaw change that would create Solar Photovoltaic Overlay Districts in Bourne.

The passage of such a zoning bylaw article by Town Meeting voters, Mr. Elrick said, would allow for the installation of some solar panels in certain, designated areas of the town “as-of-right”. That means that those proposing a solar project that complied with the proposed bylaw’s criteria would not need to request a special permit. They would, however, need to undergo site plan review by the planning board.

Three areas are currently being considered for such overlay districts, two in the Buzzards Bay/Bournedale area, along Scenic Highway, and one along MacArthur Boulevard.

The districts proposed bylaw would apply to large scale (250 kilowatts or larger) ground-mounted systems.
A site plan would need to be prepared by a licensed professional engineer, along with other requirements, such as an electrical diagram detailing the system.

Along with site plan review, if any such system would be used to provide energy to the grid, it would need to provide the town’s building inspector with a copy of an interconnect agreement with a utility company before a permit would be issued.

Design issues, such as lighting, signage, and accessory structures, along with safety, monitoring, and maintenance requirements, are all covered in the draft bylaw, which has been posted online at www.townofbourne.com.

Mr. Elrick said that designating a place where alternative energy can be generated “as-of-right” is one of the criteria that must be met if

Bourne wants to become a green community under the state’s Green Communities Act. He said, however, that having a bylaw in place to govern large solar installations would be useful even if the town chooses not to pursue the green community designation.

Planning board members will be holding a public hearing on the draft Solar Photovoltaic System bylaw on Thursday, October 13, just a few days before Town Meeting.

That should give those who might be affected by the proposed overlay districts time to review the draft, prepare comments, and suggest changes in advance of the proposal’s consideration by voters.

On Thursday. September 22, at 7 PM, the planning board will hold a public hearing on a second proposed zoning bylaw article at the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center.

If the article ends up being approved by voters at Town Meeting, the bylaw change would govern storage trailers and storage containers placed on residential properties, not just the commercial lots currently covered by zoning regulations.

The definition of containers includes pods, or portable on demand units, now seen more frequently in residential areas.

The proposed bylaw contains rules for short-term loading and unloading of goods or materials; short-term storage, construction projects, and dealing with the removal of non-conforming storage trailers and storage containers.

Under the bylaw, for example, containers for construction debris need to be removed within 14 days of the completion of a construction project.

A draft of this proposed bylaw is also posted on the planning board section of the town’s website


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