Board Preps for Green Communities Act Zoning

As the Board of Selectmen prepares to make Rochester a “Green Community”, so must the Rochester Planning Board, Chairman Arnie Johnson announced on June 26, introducing the two criteria of the five mandated by the Green Communities Act that the Planning Board must assist with implementing.

First, Johnson explained, the board must designate zoning that would accommodate a “by-right” solar zone where a developer could expect to develop a solar energy project with less stringent regulations than those in the Town’s Solar Bylaw.

“They would accept, like, the town dump,” said Johnson, naming one specific area that could be designated by-right for solar. “We would specify the area.”

“Then, when we create that piece of legislation, we would create the criteria that goes along with it, and that would be for by-right solar,” Johnson said. “Or you can designate it for research and development into alternative energies.”

In response to board member Ben Bailey’s question on how townspeople would feel about their neighborhoods being designated as by-right solar districts, Johnson replied, “That’s why we were thinking the town dump.”

Johnson specified that it could be an overlay to an existing industrial zone.

“It has to be like a real [zone],” Johnson said. “It can’t be like an illusion – some swamp land … up in the industrial area,” Johnson said.

The second criterion the Planning Board must address is a “Stretch Building Code”, which pertains to stricter energy efficiency standards for new residential construction. Johnson specified that it would regulate new homes only, not renovations or additions to existing homes.

The stretch code would be close to the existing state requirements in energy efficient heating and cooling systems and insulation, only slightly more stringent, Johnson added.

In exchange for being deemed a Green Community, Rochester would receive grant funding to help Rochester save money by being more energy efficient.

Town Meeting would have to adopt the stretch code before it would be adopted.

In other matters, REpurpose Properties, applicants for an age-restricted residential development on Rounseville Road next to Plumb Corner, again requested a continuance, which prompted Planning Board member Gary Florindo to comment on projects that repeatedly request continuances.

“We’ve been through this a number of times with other projects when they keep bumping it down and bumping it down the road,” said Florindo. “We had this problem with another project in town and they kept bumping it down … and it came back to us as if we were the bad guys.”

Florindo said it has happened three times now, and he just wanted to make that clear, he added.

Johnson said the continuation was just as well, since no testimony had yet been taken and several members of the board were absent that night.

That hearing was continued until July 10.

Also during the meeting, the board approved the application for an Approval Not Required filed by Roger and Laura Pelletier, trustees of the Pelletier Family Realty Trust, along with Bradford and Ruth Correia for lots located on Featherbed Lane. Engineer David Davignon referred to the application as a “land swapping” and … “to balance out the land better.”

The land is a large tract owned by the Correias, with several “fingerlike projections” (lots) that will be conveyed to the Pelletiers, with one of the seven lots to be conveyed to the Rochester Land Trust.

“Very unusual shapes,” said Bailey about the lots. “No objections – just, why?”

Davignon said that was how the lots “perced,” referring to the percolation tests required for septic system development for new residential construction.

The ANR application was accepted.

The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for July 10 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry


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