Published: 5/13/2019 11:23:04 PM
GRANBY — Voters passed all articles presented at a special and annual Town Meeting on Monday, including an article placing a moratorium on large-scale, ground-mounted solar energy systems until Jan. 31, 2020.
Approximately 130 residents turned out for the special meeting at the Junior-Senior High School, though the crowd thinned out as the meeting progressed.
The solar farm article, which was eighth on the special Town Meeting warrant, was originally slated for a vote at a special Town Meeting in February, but the Select Board elected to withdraw it just before that meeting began.
A number of residents walked out of the February meeting when the article was dropped, with some complaining about the sudden nature of the announcement accompanied by what they said was a lack of explanation from the Select Board.
The article is “not saying no to anything,” Select Board member Jay Joyce said at the meeting on Monday, but is instead intended to serve as a “cooling off period” that gives voters more time to attend relevant public hearings and talk with town officials.
Joyce said that current state legislation allows solar farms to declare tax-exempt status, meaning that they do not have to give revenue back to the town.
Select Board member Glen Sexton disputed this claim, adding that the town receives some benefits such as “an exchange for electricity for our town buildings, for example.”
Joyce said the company could use a loophole in the law to make the town pay back the revenue, although Planning Board member Robert Sheehan Jr., said the state Legislature might close this loophole itself.
According to Town Administrator Chris Martin, the town received $144,000 from one of the solar companies last year.
The original proposal presented a moratorium through September 2019, but the timeline was amended in accordance with state law.
A total of 19 articles were presented, although Article 1 on the special Town Meeting warrant, which concerned a zoning bylaw change regarding industrial districts, was withdrawn so that it could receive further input from the town’s Board of Health and Conservation Commission.
The second half of the Town Meeting will continue on June 10, where an additional 28 articles, including budgets, will be presented for a vote. The town divides the meetings in two in the interest of time, according to Martin.
Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.