Planning Board keeps all articles, including solar map, on warrant for Town Meeting

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The Planning Board voted Tuesday against withdrawing any of its seven zoning articles, including the oft-discussed Commercial Solar Photovoltaic Overlay District map, that are on the warrant for the newly rescheduled Town Meeting on Sept. 12.

The Select Board had requested articles that are not essential for operation of town government be removed so that Town Meeting could focus on financial items and move quickly.

After some discussion, the Planning Board voted 7-1 against removing the solar map article.

Planning Board vice chair Rob Benson suggested that some landowners would try to move forward with their solar projects if the town delayed a vote because, “Anything they can get away with they’re going to do to maximize the value of their land.”

Added Benson: “We’d be doing a disservice not to try to do something in the best interest of the townspeople.”

A couple of residents spoke in favor of keeping the article on the warrant, because if the map is approved at Town Meeting it would invalidate the Planning Board’s recent approval of Seaboard Solar’s planned 28-acre solar array in the woods behind 71 Frankland Road. That parcel of land is not listed as approved for solar on the map.

Despite concern that the other six articles on the warrant also might lead to some discussion, the eight-member board deadlocked, 4-4, on a motion to remove them, meaning all articles remain.

Select Board member Brian Herr expressed frustration with the Planning Board’s votes, calling it “very disappointing and possibly very problematic.” Herr noted it will encourage a larger turnout during the pandemic, which the town was looking to avoid.

During the Planning Board’s joint meeting with the Select Board later Tuesday evening, Fran DeYoung was selected to fill the open spot on the Planning Board. The term expires next year.

The other candidates were Kelly Karp, Jared Pray and Curtis Smithson. DeYoung and Karp had served previous stints on the Planning Board.

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