Ahead of the November 19 Fall Special Town Meeting, The Rochester Planning Board held a series of public hearings for seven bylaw articles slated for the warrant.
Two of these articles pertain to the legislative requirements of the Green Communities Act, a state designation the Town hopes to achieve.
The first option is an article proposing a “Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Installation” overlay district for the town’s capped landfill where a solar field would be allowed “as of right” without the need of a special permit. Only a site plan review would be required.
The solar bylaw would still apply to the project pertaining to aspects such as screening and drainage, but as Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson stated, “But doesn’t limit the effect of the solar bylaw.”
Furthermore, Johnson emphasized, “We’re not advocating any project to go there. There’s no project currently slated to go there; it’s just simply a check-off on legislation that we need to do for the state for the Green Communities thing.”
“If you were going to pick a part of Rochester where you could say you could put solar … that would be the only place,” commented Town Counsel Blair Bailey.
As it did with all the proposed articles, the board voted to recommend adoption by Town Meeting.
Next, as an alternative to the solar overlay district, the subsequent article would allocate the Limited Industrial Zone as an overlay district for “Renewable or Alternative Energy Research and Development Facilities and/or Manufacturing Facilities.”
“We could do an either/or,” said Johnson. Solar, as the prior article allows, “or we could create manufacturing or research and development.
“We decided to do all three just in case the solar didn’t pass at Town Meeting,” Johnson stated.
The bylaw would specify the types of renewable energy research allowed in the overlay district, and the board chose to prohibit wind energy from the bylaw.
“That’s something that we didn’t want to have –” said Johnson, “a windmill sticking up there in the Industrial Zone.”
The remaining five articles came as a result of concerns brought by residents to the bylaw subcommittee:
One article would re-number the general heading of the zoning bylaw, combining all overlay districts into one heading, as Johnson explained it. The article would organize each overlay district that is currently scattered throughout the bylaw.
Another article addressed some amendments suggested by the zoning bylaw subcommittee some time ago, but were not deemed priorities at the time. The article would consolidate into one section the amount of acreage required for two-, three-, and other multi-family houses – their different lot requirements such as sizes and setbacks – and puts them all together in one “more user-friendly” format, as Johnson put it. In most cases, applicants would not have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval, needing only a variance for certain other criteria.
The next article addresses the multiple smaller accessory structures on agricultural land, giving more specific details on what is allowed and what would require zoning approval, while another article addresses temporary storage units that would be allowed in front yard areas.
One final article that addresses some bylaw “housekeeping” to add a section that Johnson described as “a general philosophy” and “guiding principle” of the bylaw as it pertains to residential growth and the town’s status as a Right to Farm community.
All the articles were received with a unanimous positive vote to recommend at the November 16 Fall Special Town Meeting to take place at Rochester Memorial School at 7:00 pm.
In other business, the board granted an Approval Not Required application for Logan Smith for three lots at 69 Ryder Road. The plan includes a paved apron and road improvements to Old Middleboro Road, as well as a catch basin for stormwater.
In response to a request from Connet Woods, the board allowed an extension for road paving until December 15.
The board also voted not to recommend the Board of Selectmen exercise its right of first refusal for the sale of 440 Snipatuit Road.
The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for December 11 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Planning Board
By Jean Perry