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Town OKs Large Solar Farm Zoning

Voters discussed it for more than an hour Tuesday night.

Westborough voters Tuesday night adopted a zoning bylaw regulating large-scale, ground-mounted, solar photovoltaic installations in the town’s industrial and municipal districts while prohibiting them from residential and commercial property.

The two-thirds majority approval for the planning board’s proposal followed more than one hour of discussion, including West Main Street resident Brian Wilkinson’s slide presentation and related amendment. Wilkinson said the proposed bylaw “would prevent Westborough families from using solar power to heat their homes.”

Tuesday night’s vote in the Westborough High School auditorium on the special town meeting’s second night.

Town meeting dissolved around 9:25 p.m., after voters approved the last of the 29 warrant articles, authorizing selectmen to extend Westborough’s lease of the Forbes Municipal Building parking lot with Post 85 Emergency Service Squad Inc.

The solar panel bylaw proposal drew the longest debate Tuesday night.

Planning board Chairman Lester Hensley said Building Commissioner Tin Htway asked the board to develop sucb a bylaw.

The need for a bylaw became apparent after a project on Milk Street that “only came before the planning board because of a need for an earth removal permit,” Hensley said.

The board received public input during a Sept. 18 public hearing on the warrant article, Hensley said.

Selectmen Chairman Leigh Emery said selectmen voted  against supporting the planning board’s proposal because residential properties are excluded.

Several selectmen support the bylaw philosophically, but want it to be “fully developed and vetted,” Emery said.

Wilkinson said the planning board’s proposal would be “the most restrictive solar bylaw in the state of Massachusetts if it passes.”

Hensley said Wilkinson’s proposal would “make the bylaw less restrictive.”

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