Athol Day by day Information – Solar moratorium extension overwhelmingly permitted at Athol city assembly

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Published: 09/16/2020 7:04:53 PM

Changed: 09/16/2020 7:04:45 PM

ATHOL – It took voters about 45 minutes Monday night to read the first 30 articles on Athol’s annual city council arrest warrant and about 20 minutes more to resolve the final issue to be resolved.

Article 31 called for a six-month extension of the city’s existing moratorium on the construction of large floor-mounted solar systems. It had initially been proposed that the construction ban be extended for a full year, but proponents apparently believed that the moratorium would have a better chance of passage if cut back.

Proponents of the expansion feared a resurgence of COVID-19 could lead to a postponement of the October city meeting, where competing statutes for building solar panels in the city’s RC residential zone will be considered by voters. The moratorium passed last July expires on October 31, and without a vote next month, they argued, the city would remain open to solar development.

The main argument for the article was put forward by Bill Hogan, who is not a registered voter in Athol but owns a house on the shores of Secret Lake. Hogan was the lead author of the extension.

“First of all,” he said, “I think this is an insurance policy for the city. If the meeting in the autumn city cannot be held due to the virus or some other cause, the moratorium will continue until April 2021.

“The six-month extension won’t hurt any landowner or developer considering a solar system. This is because National Grid, the owner of the electrical infrastructure into which its systems would need to be built, has limitations in this area. City officials realize it will take approximately four years to physically connect to the power grid. ”

Hogan also said the extension would be in line with results of a citizen poll conducted last year that indicated support for tighter regulation of solar developments in Athol. It would also reflect the sentiment of voters, who approved the original moratorium at the special session last July by a margin of 180-2.

David Small, chairman of the Board of Planning and Community Development, told attendees that his panel had recommended that the expansion be passed. Four members voted in favor, three others abstained.

“A big change since we met,” he said, “is that the original proposal was to extend the moratorium for a full year, and they have now reduced it to six months, which is a little tastier.”

The businessman Ron Gatautis, who lives in Athol, spoke against the article.

“If projects with National Grid really have a duration of four years,” he began, “why do we need this extension?

“There are landowners who will be injured if they cannot use solar energy, and I am very concerned about climate change and global warming caused by human emissions. We have forest fires on the west coast, climate change is threatening food production. Earth’s climate is now changing faster than ever before in the history of modern civilization, largely due to human activity.

“Fortunately, climate change is solvable. We have the technology and the science to cut emissions. Carbon dioxide and other heat scavenger gases are the main drivers of global warming. Solar collectors offset around eight times more carbon per year than forest areas. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to achieve zero net carbon emissions. To achieve net zero we need to change the way we produce electricity. ”

As a result, the development of solar energy should be encouraged, not restricted.

Several other voters on both sides of the issue spoke at the meeting before the extension was finally approved by 84 to 9 votes.

In another campaign, voters voted without debate to collect property taxes of $ 15.4 million, applied to a total municipal budget for FY21 of just over $ 21 million.

There was also no debate about excluding Proposition 2½ debt of $ 825,000 to cover repairs to the bell tower and roof of the City Hall. The measure, which required the approval of two-thirds of the voters present, was passed with a margin of 81-5. While the debt exclusion was approved in a special election in June, the state law must also be approved by the city assembly.

A total of 95 registered voters attended the meeting on Monday.

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