North Adams Council Sets Hearing for Solar Presentation

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Tuesday's City Council meeting ran more smoothly than usual but still stumbled over procedure on two agenda items.

It was the first council meeting under new rules that limited public participation on agenda items to comments only at the beginning of the meeting.

There was some grumbling by frequent speakers Robert Cardimino and Mark Trottier, who said it was difficult to provide opinions on agenda items because of they lack of information.

The agenda and documents can be found here.

"None of the city's papers are posted on the city website," said Trottier, referring to communications and other documentation in the "packets" given to councilors and the press. "They should be on the website so the public ... can look it over and make an educated decision whether they are for it or against it."

While the lack of public comments — which had often detiorated into public arguments — allowed the council to wrap up the meeting in less than an hour, much of the time was spent with councilors debating the procedure for public hearings and ordinances.

The council set a date at the request of the mayor for a joint public hearing on a proposed solar array system for Feb. 14 at 6:30 on a 5-4 vote. The hearing will include the Planning and Zoning boards and airport commission.

Principals from Blue Wave Capital and city officials will give a presentation on the development of a 4-megawatt photovoltaic system to be installed on the high school, landfill, aiport and the old wastewater treatment plant. A proposed power purchase agreement is expected to save the city $11 million over 20 years.

Councilor John Barrett III objected to the public hearing, saying the council was not the permitting board.

"To be very honest, this is putting the cart before the horse," he said because it should go before the Airport Commission first and neighborhood groups. "This is crazy to be moving ahead with this before it goes before these boards ... the City Council is not the permitting group."

Mayor Richard Alcombright was not in attendance to ask but council President Michael Bloom said he was under the impression the hearing was for informational purposes, "an introductory for the whole project."

Councilor Keith Bona said he agreed with Barrett that the project was still far off and that it would go to the different permitting boards. "The thing is those usually aren't as public [as the council].

In the end, Councilors Barrett, Jennifer Breen Kirsch, Lisa Blackmer and Marie Harpin voted against setting the date, with both Kirsch and Blackmer suggesting the matter be referred back to the mayor's office for clarification.

In other matters, the council discussed the proper procedure for the submission of a proposed zoning change that had been tabled last year. Developers Gordon Leete and Charles Fox had asked a piece their property on State Street be rezoned as commercial. In the end, the council asked Leete to have the developers attorney provide an ordinance that could be referred to the Planning Board.

► A communication filed by former Councilor Ronald Boucher to reinstate the councilors' stipends was filed at the request of Bloom, who said the mayor was going to address it in the budget.

► The council voted to support a resolution on the extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, with Councilor David Bond abstaining because the trail may affect his Curran Highway property in the future.

Adams and Williamstown have both voted in support of the resolution, which calls on the Metropolitan Planning Commission to reinstate $2.3 million in federal grants for the trail that were given to Pittsfield. The commission meets on Jan. 31.

Tags: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail,   rules,   solar array,   

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