Critical decisions will be made by the voters of Athol at the Oct. 19 Town Meeting related to the future of how and where large-scale, ground-mounted commercial solar installations can be built in rural Athol. Currently, these commercial installations can be built on any site in the residential zone with a scant 75-foot setback and with few other siting constraints. The entire site, typically 20 to 25 acres, can be clear cut from the forest. There are inadequate storm-water controls, screening and other siting requirements. Scenic vistas can be built upon. The current bylaws are slanted to favor the developer.
A coalition of citizens has been working with the Planning Board for the past year to develop sensible bylaws that balance the rights of the developers with the rights of existing residents. These bylaws would still allow commercial solar to be constructed, but in the right places and with requirements for effective screening, larger setbacks from property lines and full storm water controls. No longer will clear-cutting of 20 acres of forests be allowed, as land that is previously disturbed is the preferred siting location. The Planning Board will be empowered through the proposed bylaws to protect the existing residents and to preserve the rural character of Athol.
Please attend Oct. 19 and vote yes on Articles 4 and 6. These bylaws are pro-solar when proposed in the right places. Empower the PlanningBoard with the tools to protect your forests and your neighborhood.