Finding Compromise in Solar Bylaw

A three-hour Special Meeting on a proposed solar bylaw was held by the Marion Planning Board on Monday evening. Four members of the Marion Energy Management Committee attended, with much back and forth on issues around screening ground-mounted solar systems and the allowable size of a ground mounted or roof system.

Bill Saltonstall, a member of the Energy Management Committee was the only individual who actually has a solar installation at his home, and his knowledge helped the Planning Board and those in attendance understand some of the complex mathematics around the size and energy generation of a solar installation.

The two committees are trying to hammer out the wording of the proposed bylaw, which they hope to bring to a vote at the fall Town Meeting on Monday, Oct. 28.

In discussion, the Planning Board focused on the visual impact upon abutters, while the Energy Committee is focused on the need for alternative energy for the future. That dichotomy appeared to be the root difference between the two committees in the discussion at the meeting.

John Rockwell reminded everyone in attendance that the reason the town is even considering a bylaw is because of our country’s massive use of foreign oil and the impact of global warming on the planet. “We had a war in Kuwait, the Bouchard oil spill in Buzzards Bay, we made part of the Middle East very rich and we are dealing with a prediction that 20 percent of the earth’s species will become extinct due to global warming,” Rockwell said. “We need solar energy everywhere.”

Some progress was made as the two committees, with public input, worked out the details, but the six-page document, presented by the Planning Board, required more discussion.

One of the issues discussed was a ground mounted solar installation in the front yard of a Marion resident. The proposed bylaw, as presented by the Planning Board, did not allow it. But, after hearing from various members of the Energy Management Committee, Planning Board member Steve Gonsalves remarked that “we are cutting off a percentage of the Marion population that may have a front yard exposure to the sun and we should not deny them the right to install a system, as long as it is screened from the public … this is a democracy.”

After much informative discussion the Planning Board and members of the Marion Energy Committee reached an accord on many issues and those will be incorporated into the proposed bylaw. Future meetings will be held, with the public invited, to determine how Marion will address a solar bylaw. Both the Marion Planning Board and the Marion Energy Committee are seeking public input on this issue.

By Joan Hartnett-Barry

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