To the Editor:
The complex solar zoning bylaw proposed for the May 1 Annual Town Meeting is not very well-understood by Great Barrington voters. While there is broad support for allowing roof-mounted solar arrays in residential areas, how many residents realize that the proposed bylaw could result in ground-mounted solar installations in their neighbors’ front, side or back yards?
In residential areas, Article 19 not only allows roof-mounted solar systems, but also grants “by right,” ground-mounted solar installations up to 750 square feet of project space and up to 15 feet high for accessory use. The bylaw could result in systems of 30 x 25 feet built in front, side or back yards. (These changes were made in the last meeting.)
A recent newspaper article needs to be corrected because it does not match with the proposed solar bylaw recently posted on the Town website. Perhaps the reason for the omission is that changes were made during a series of meetings after the interview.
To clarify what will be allowed, I have redrawn the solar bylaw table for residential zones, highlighting what is allowed “by right,” or allowed by special permit of the Planning Board or “not permitted.” Every solar installation is possible in residential areas except for commercial installations in R1A and R1B and R3 zones as shown:
The zone designations are not easily understood, either. Here’s a sketch, but the maps are available on the Town website, under “Zoning Bylaws and Maps.” You can magnify the maps to see them more clearly.
- R1A/R1B includes the GB historic area designated by the Massachusetts Historic Commission west of Main Street. In Housatonic, it also includes areas off N. Plain Road, south of Wyantenuck Street; west to the Williams River, north to the town line, east bound by the old An area by Park Street south is included.
- R2 encompasses areas north of Taconic Avenue, including the residential developments on Hemlock Hill, Barrington Brook, Long Pond Road, Christian Hill areas.
- R3 includes a small area near Avery and another area east of the River and west of East Street. In Housatonic Village Center areas near Williams Street, east to Van Deusenville, north to the town line, west to the railroad line are included.
- R4 includes areas east of Route 7, north to the town line, south to Blue Hill. Also, areas north of Seekonk Cross Road to the town line. Included are areas east of Taconic/Alford Road, west to the town line, south to Route 71 with some variations.
If this is what the Town wants, let’s be clear on what we’ll be voting on.
However, we need to be careful not to deplete unnecessarily green spaces, such as trees, arable land, including vegetable gardens. We should value our neighborhoods and open spaces which are well-articulated in the Master Plan. Solar energy has limitations, considering our cloudy weather.
We are told by legal counsel that if we allow roof-mounted systems “by right” for accessory use and amend the definition for “light industrial” to include “commercial solar installations,” we would make great legal and green energy strides.
Thus, ANY solar bylaw would show that the Town has promoted solar energy in zoning bylaws and would be consistent with Massachusetts laws. If townsfolk agree, amendments should be made “on the floor” during the May 1st Annual Town Meeting.