Dalton Readying Updated Bylaws for Town Meeting

By Dan GigliottiiBerkshires Columnist
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Select Board weighs in on a series of new and updated bylaws concerning solar energy, medical marijuana and the keeping of poultry.

DALTON, Mass. — A yearlong review and drafting process has readied several new bylaws and some updates of older ones to be decided at the annual town meeting

The Zoning Board of Appeals will deliberate on the proposals during a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Callahan Room at Town Hall.

Last week, the Select Board submitted its official comments on the six zoning bylaws during a discussion with Planning Board Chairman Richard Ladd.

New bylaws regulating solar energy installations, the keeping of poultry and medical marijuana, along with revisions to drive-through windows and storm-water management will be included on the warrant for Annual Town Meeting, tentatively scheduled for May, according to a town official. A sign bylaw is also being augmented by town officials, which was discussed by the Select Board earlier this year.

The Planning Board used other towns as a model for its creation of a solar bylaw, focused primarily on the size and location of prospective installations. For the sake of clarity during the Select Board's discussion on the new bylaw, Chairman John Boyle summarized its intent as benefiting individual residents and deterring larger operations.

"Basically, we're trying to allow for homeowners in residential districts to put facilities on their roof or on their property for their own use, so to speak, and avoid any kind of commercial operations," Boyle said, to the satisfaction of Ladd.

The bylaw requires the acquisition of a building permit from the building inspector for small-scale projects and documents displaying analysis and design of the project by an engineer of a firm based in the state. It effectively prevents any ground-mounted solar projects in a residential zone, based on a requirement that any proposal of the sort be for a one-acre or larger lot.

In order to distinguish small-scale from large-scale solar arrays, planners deemed a ground-mounted installation as covering one-eighth acre or more as large-scale. Any large-scale project would necessitate a site plan approval under the special permit granting authority of planners.

Factors such as the generation of an electrical current and the aesthetic impacts of solar installations led planners to determine it is most feasible to restrict ground-mounted installations, making way for roof installations.

"Those type of questions are negated, if the panels are on the roof," Ladd said. "Small scale is what the typical homeowner would put up. Panels on the roof, that sort of thing. For the most part, if it's on the ground, you're going to run into some regulations, some stipulations."

In what came as a surprise to planners, a number residents took particular interest in the keeping of poultry in the last year or so. The Planning Board held a public hearing to discuss regulations on the matter and residents filled the meeting room. Animal Control Officer Michael McClay also reported a number of fowl cases, Ladd said, particularly concerning the free ranging of chicken.

The bylaw is meant for any birds, excluding the exotic types raised inside residences, like parrots. On behalf of his board, Ladd said it is a positive for residents to have the freedom to raise poultry for food and eggs.

According to the bylaw draft, keeping of poultry will be considered as an accessory use in residential zones, but not permitted in certain other zones. The bylaw will not affect any established farms in Dalton.

Poultry must be kept in a what the town deems a human manner and consistent with the best agricultural practices. No more than eight adult poultry, including no more than three total turkeys can be on a person's property. Each adult poultry will require some form of structure or fencing to be kept in, including 10 yards of free space to roam inside of.

Select Board member Louisa Horth felt the permission of eight chickens for a single residence is a lot and could attract other animals and cultivate unpleasant odors from waste.

"To me, it's just not a good thing. But I can see if you have three acres — residential one (R-1) where you have three acres, you're on a farm. But close proximity, it just doesn't seem fair to the neighbors," Horth said.

The medical marijuana bylaw is based on that of Pittsfield, according to Ladd, which planners determined was "ahead of the curve" and barely altered.

"We don't feel that Dalton is a town that's going to have a dispensary in it, but, on the other hand, we want to be ready should that permit come in," Ladd said.

Following a citizen's petition about two years ago, Ladd vowed to bring an amended version of the town's bylaw regulating drive-through establishments.

"At that time, I and the members of the Planning Board felt that it was a rather poorly written bylaw and it didn't really put enough restrictions on drive-through facilities to protect the citizens from the negative affects of traffic," Ladd said.

Select Board members questioned the lawfulness of the bylaw saying it very restrictive, given its geographical parameters, among other factors.

Tags: bylaws,   medical marijuana,   poultry,   solar,   

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