Solar bylaw changes passed at Town Meeting

Apr 25, 2022

After months of work, the Solar Bylaw Study Committee saw its bylaw passed, where it now awaits a seal of approval from the attorney general.

The bylaw offers several updates to the town’s solar regulations. The committee has rewritten and expanded a portion of the town’s zoning bylaws in an attempt to balance the rights of local residents with the responsible development of solar projects.

The recent influx of solar development in town sparked a slew of proposed bylaw changes meant to curb, or at least slow down new proposals over the past year.

Wareham residents voted at the June 12, 2021 Town Meeting in favor of a solar bylaw that included several restrictions on new solar project construction. The proposed bylaw would have required solar facilities to be located on land parcels between 3 and 10 acres that have been cleared of trees for at least five years.

Attorney General Maura Healey slapped down that bylaw in March, saying it violated the state’s “prohibition against unreasonable regulations of solar uses.”

Thus the Solar Bylaw Study Committee was created to study and develop a new solar bylaw that might balance the town’s wishes with solar developers.

Changes to the bylaw include rules on the amount of earth solar developers must leave when preparing a site; size limitations; making the Planning Board the sole permitting authority for solar projects; the encouragement of development on land that’s already disturbed and other new regulations.

There was little discussion on the solar bylaw, as residents mainly took to the microphones to either praise the bylaw or ask questions about specific zoning in town.

One resident questioned if solar projects are allowed where the town’s aquifer is located. A member of the solar committee clarified that that specific location would not allow solar projects under wetland protections.

After a few proponents voiced their support for the item, a resident motioned to end discussion and vote immediately on the bylaw, which passed a two-thirds vote.