To the Editor:
In the April 4 issue of The Wanderer, a letter from Ted North provided a confusing and misleading view of the proposed solar bylaw, which has been developed over the past year by the Energy Management Committee (EMC) with input from the Planning Board. Marion’s bylaws currently do not address solar arrays; this has been interpreted to mean that they are not allowed. Massachusetts state law 40A specifically states, however, that solar array installations cannot be unreasonably restricted by municipalities, a difference that has already resulted in one lawsuit against the town.
The proposed solar bylaw provides reasonable requirements for roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar arrays that are both in compliance with state law and are tailored to protect Marion’s beauty and character. In conjunction with this solar bylaw, the EMC is also proposing a Municipal Solar Overlay District that encompasses the capped landfill on Benson Brook Road. This overlay supports the town vote at last spring’s Town Meeting authorizing the Selectmen to lease the top of the landfill for a solar array.
The comparison of the proposed municipal overlay to a 40B project is calculated to produce a negative reaction by town residents. Unlike a 40B project, the Solar Overlay dictates the location of a by-right installation. While a developer would not have to obtain a special permit in the district, the Planning Board still does a site plan review. Moreover, any proposed solar array installation on the landfill must meet the stringent design requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Post-Closure Permit (PCP) process, which exceed special permit requirements. MassDEP recognizes that capped landfills are desirable locations for renewable energy installations and the PCP requirements are focused specifically on ensuring that the installation will not damage the landfill cap. MassDEP has already permitted 34 renewable energy installations on capped landfills: the process is proven and successful.
The establishment of a “by-right” (which means that a special permit is not required) location for a renewable energy facility would satisfy one of the five criteria needed for a town to achieve the “Green Community” designation. For this criterion, the only requirement is to have the designated location; there is no requirement that the solar installation actually be constructed. Contrary to statements in North’s letter, the responsibility to make a viable economic case for such an installation rests with the company that proposes to do the installation, not with Marion.
Becoming a Green Community is voluntary. It would represent a town-wide declaration that we need to be better custodians of our environment. Each step in the process would require a town-wide decision, each resulting in cost benefits to Marion and its residents due to reduced energy consumption by our town facilities, homes and town vehicles. Achieving Green Community designation means real and tangible improvements have been made to reduce our energy consumption and carbon footprint. It will require effort, determination and commitment; there is nothing frivolous or “window dressing” about the achievement, as was mischaracterized in the April 4 letter.
The EMC’s efforts in this direction to date have cost the town nothing. If the town decides to pursue Green Community accreditation, some initial investment will be required, but these investments will save money in the long run through reduced energy costs and cash rebates from utility incentives. Energy costs will only increase in the future, so actions that reduce town energy costs will be to our collective benefit. The statement that achieving Green Community status will cost the town from $300,000 to $500,000 is not supported by the experiences of other towns that have become Green Communities.
To date, one-third (114) of the cities and towns in Massachusetts have achieved Green Community status within only four years of the program’s commencement. This is a tremendous achievement and has contributed to Massachusetts being the most energy-efficient state in the country. Thirty-one of the 114 Green Communities have a smaller population than Marion, the smallest being Rowe at 393. Contrary to the assertion in North’s letter, small size is not a disadvantage in achieving Green Community status; all towns gain from the energy savings and incentives provided by the program.
Educate yourselves with the facts, not the rumors, and come to Town Meeting ready to help steer Marion toward a more energy-efficient future.
David Pierce, Chairman
Marion Energy Management Committee
The views expressed in the “Letters to the Editor” column are not necessarily those of The Wanderer, its staff or advertisers. The Wanderer will gladly accept any and all correspondence relating to timely and pertinent issues in the great Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester area, provided they include the author’s name, address and phone number for verification. We cannot publish anonymous, unsigned or unconfirmed submissions. The Wanderer reserves the right to edit, condense and otherwise alter submissions for purposes of clarity and/or spacing considerations. The Wanderer may choose to not run letters that thank businesses, and The Wanderer has the right to edit letters to omit business names. The Wanderer also reserves the right to deny publication of any submitted correspondence.