Solar Panel Discussion Leads to Dissenting Opinions

Members of the Marion Planning Board (PB) met with the Marion Energy Management Committee (EMC) on October 22 at Music Hall in Marion — leading to dissenting opinions on a proposed zoning bylaw for solar panels.

EMC Chairman David Pierce said it was the Joint Committee’s responsibility to provide direction to the Marion Selectmen on how to proceed, but there was generally no consensus between the EMC and PB on the subject.

EMC Member Jennifer Francis stated that the EMC is trying to make any bylaw for solar panels as friendly to Marion residents as possible but were being met with resistance from the PB.

PB Member Ted North said a solar panel bylaw would essentially become a commercial project for land developers to make money off solar panels, which would defeat the intent of zoning.

“Why do you want to treat these things different than any other commercial project?” he asked. “If you open the property for these projects, you are going to attract investors and tax speculators looking for cheap land leases to put these properties on. The solar developers have no allegiance to Marion. These things are tax shelters, nothing more and nothing less.”

But Francis said most Marion residents “could care less” if developers make money if it benefits them by allowing them to purchase solar energy.

“There are people who may want opportunities to participate in a community project so they can put a solar panel on their roof,” Francis said.

She also noted that farmers profit and can receive zoning bylaws.

North and fellow PB Member Sherman Briggs noted that most of Marion is residential, which poses additional concerns.

“If you have a five-acre lot and you put solar panels on three acres of it, that is a huge hit to the neighborhood,” North said.

Despite the dissenting opinions, the Joint Committee agreed to bring the subject matter forward to the spring town meeting; the issue will be discussed further at the Joint Committee’s next meeting.

PB and EMC members also quickly agreed to present a warrant article at the spring town meeting to move forward with a rezoning bylaw for a transfer station site.

“If you look at the plan, it’s Lot 9 on Map 24. If you look at the zoning map, part of the lot is already in a limited industrial area. The suggestion is that Lot 9 become totally an industrial area as opposed to a partial industry area,” said EMC Secretary Norm Hills.

The Joint Committee also discussed whether to designate Marion as a Green Community.

EMC Member Bill Saltonstall said EMC will be attending a Marion Selectmen meeting in the next month and will try to address the various requirements for becoming a Green Community on their merits.

“I think we need to pick away at these things. I don’t know how much support we have among residents and I don’t want to ram it down people’s throats,” he said.

EMC and PB members agreed that residents need a lot more education on what it would mean to be designated as a Green Community, and this would need to be explained to residents when they propose specific projects.

“It sounds like we are moving towards [the Green Community designation],” Pierce said. “As new ideas come forward, we will need to be as clear as we can about what this all means. It’s going to be a step-by-step process as we go.”

The next PB and EMC Joint Meeting is not set, as it has to be rescheduled due to conflicts with other town meetings and Thanksgiving.

By Scott Giordano

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