Planning Board members Sandra Moderski, left, and Chairwoman Barbara Ziemba reviews a draft solar bylaw.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday eliminated the chance of another large solar array encroaching on a residential neighborhood.
Finishing off a final draft of a solar bylaw, the board voted to remove a section that would have allowed commercial arrays for the generation and sale of electricity in a Residential 2 Zone by special permit.
Such arrays would still be allowed by special permit in business, industrial and Residential 1 zones. Solar installations for residential or business use would be allowed in any zone with site plan approval and/or a building permit.
The move was applauded by a handful of East Road residents who are fighting the development of a 6,500-panel commercial solar array in their neighborhood.
"You've seen what our neighborhood went through," said David Krzeminski, urging the board to remove the R2 special permitting during the public hearing. A determined developer with "plenty of money" could get his or her way, he said.
"I don't think it's fair to any neighborhood in this town in an R2 section to have this burden put back on them," said Krzeminski.
Resident Edward Driscoll argued there were "very few spots where this array would fit" so there was little point in providing a special permit option.
Planner David Rhinemiller said smaller commercial arrays could placed in some R2 locations and there was concern about not being "business friendly."
"We didn't want to restrict the R2 locations because there are places it won't bother anybody," he said. They would be "more evenly paced if we allow it in there with a special permit."
The special permit would be enough to regulate without "handcuffing" energy development, said Selectman Richard Blanchard, speaking as "a citizen."
The bylaw was prompted by 217 East Road Solar Project LLC, which is seeking to build a photovoltaic array on East Road. A group of residents, which includes Krzeminski and Driscoll, is asking a Superior Court judge to rule on the Zoning Board of Appeals decision that is allowing it to move forward.
ZBA Chairman Michael Mach commended the planners on its efforts.
"You guys put a lot of time into this. I wish we had this when we had the meetings last year," Mach said, although he hoped some more "tweaking" could be done.
Mach thought the ZBA's authority on special permitting should also include solar arrays but the planners determined they would keep it under their purview with site plan review, in the same way they permit cell towers.
The board also after much discussion eliminated references to the size of arrays at the suggestion of Community Development Director Donna Cesan.
Cesan said distinguishing between large- and small-scale commercial was causing confusion.
Chairwoman Barbara Ziemba agreed, saying the defining element was energy "being sold to wholesale markets."
The section referring to "small-scale solar" was removed and all references to "large-scale" replaced with "commercial."
The board made some other minor changes, including limiting the height of any ground-mounted panels to more than 5 feet.
Adoption of the bylaw requires a two-third vote by town meeting members.
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