Westborough voters approve solar farms bylaw


By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor

Westborough voters approve solar farms bylawWestborough – Westborough voters have approved a recommendation from the Planning Board to regulate large-scale solar farms in industrial and municipal zones in the town. The vote came on the second night of the recent Special Town Meeting (STM).

The new bylaw specifically addresses “Large-Scale Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Installations,” which have a minimum nameplate capacity of 250 KwH or a solar installation that covers at least 1,000 square feet. Per the bylaw, solar farms of this type would be allowed in industrial and municipal zones, but not residential or commercial zones.

The Planning Board had noted at its Aug. 28 meeting that the town's proposed bylaw closely mirrored the state's description of large-scale installations. It was important to have some “benchmarks and boundaries” to use as a starting point, the members agreed at that time, as increasing numbers of business owners utilize solar power.

As with other types of construction, the owner must first obtain a building permit and undergo a site plan review. All plans and maps must also be approved by a professional engineer who is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. The bylaw also has requirements owners must follow if they choose to stop using the solar installation.

The voters also approved at the STM an article that would allow veterans to receive up to $1,000 in property tax credits in exchange for doing some form of work for the town. The Board of Selectmen will next approve rules and regulations for this program, which is similar in nature to the town's existing Senior Tax Work-Off program. The board has already discussed several of those regulations, which include requiring the veteran to be listed as a property owner and a resident of the town for at least five years. The program will initially be limited to 10 participants, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Voters also approved the transfer of $90,000 from free cash to the Buildings and Grounds Expense Account to update the Forbes Municipal Building's elevator and various air conditioner units.

Town Manager Jim Malloy explained to the voters that the elevator had twice failed a state inspection and had actually stopped working. The plan to fix the elevator would replace all parts except the shaft and cab, he added.

An article to transfer $495,000 from the Water Retained Earnings account to pay for a new roof for the Fisher Street Water Purification Plant was also approved

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