Against Solar Bylaw

To the Editor:

The Marion Spring Town Meeting Warrant has arrived in your mailbox. The warrant contains two solar zoning bylaw articles to be voted on at the May 13 Meeting. Yes, Marion needs good solar bylaws. There is no disagreement on this basic issue. Marion needs to protect our neighborhoods and property values form the adverse consequence of out-of-town solar speculators and poorly sited solar installations in our neighborhoods.

The Planning Board clearly recognizes the need for good, rationally designed and drafted solar bylaws, and plans to deal with this important issue in a way that benefits our residents, neighborhoods, and the town. Marion residents need the ability to install new solar technology. The technology is here. Solar performance should improve as well as the size and costs reduced over time as the technology matures.

The disagreement between the Planning Board and the Energy Management Committee, sponsor of the solar zoning bylaws, is that EMC’s poorly designed and drafted bylaws are clearly not the ones for Marion.

During recent public hearings, the EMC’s proposed solar zoning bylaws have been opposed by Marion Planning Board members. Article 30 is a solar bylaw that allows for the placement of ground and pole mounted solar systems including commercial solar farms, such as those planned for Rochester and Dartmouth, in Marion’s residential neighborhoods. Many South Coast towns either prohibit large-scale commercial farms in residential neighborhoods or restrict their placement to specially restricted solar overlay districts where their impact is more benign. All Marion’s residential neighborhoods, however, having lot sizes of an acre or more will become vulnerable for placement of ground and pole mounted solar installations including commercial solar farms.

Article 31 has to do with “as of right zoning” which would allow the Marion Energy Committee to place a private commercial solar garden on the town’s Landfill; therefore, bypassing Marion’s traditional zoning protections of special permit and site plan review now required for commercial and industrial projects.

These two bylaws contain bad public policy, are poorly drafted, and place Marion residential neighborhoods at risk for commercial solar development. The bylaws throw the door wide open to entice out- of- town solar speculators to shop for cheap land leases to site solar projects in order to harvest the very rich financial and tax subsidies and incentives available for these projects. The bylaws are so poorly drafted (no front or side yard restrictions as an example) that “your across the street neighbor” can install a ground mounted solar system of 900 SF in their front yard. That’s a footprint equal to the size of two city transit buses parked end to end. You will have no remedies under the EMC’s proposed bylaws to stop it. Do you want this in Marion?

The proposed solar bylaws, Article 30 and 31, are not good solar policy and zoning for Marion. Both Articles being rushed by the EMC to Town Meeting for a vote are poorly designed and drafted should be defeated by a NO vote. Wait for the Planning Board to respond with solar bylaws reflecting the needs of our Town. Developing good zoning is a participatory process.

Ted North



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