Shutesbury voters to decide on battery storage, lighting bylaws

Shutesbury Town Hall.

Shutesbury Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-24-2024 10:58 AM

SHUTESBURY — Bylaws to regulate large-scale battery storage, limit outdoor light pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new housing construction and control door-to-door solicitors will be considered by residents at Annual Town Meeting on Saturday.

Discussion is also expected on a proposed $7.21 million fiscal year 2025 operating budget that includes a significant increase to the town’s assessment for the Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools.

Action on the 30-article warrant begins at 9 a.m. at Shutesbury Elementary School.

The town budget being proposed represents a $267,765 increase from this year’s $6.94 million budget. In the lead up to Town Meeting, though, there is uncertainty with the regional schools budget. Shutesbury was initially asked to take on a 2.52% increase, around $39,000, but that request has more than tripled in recent weeks to an 8.2% increase, with the assessment going from $1.56 million to $1.69 million.

The budget being presented at Town Meeting, however, calls for a 6% increase for regional schools, or $93,459 more in spending to $1.65 million. That’s $34,500 short of the budget recommended by the School Committee.

Town spending includes a 3.32% boost in pay for town employees across the board, with other budgets with sizable increases including a jump of $7,000, to $15,000, for Highway Department striping; a $6,000 increase, to $46,000, for fuel; and a $5,240 increase, to $136,230, for rubbish and recycle hauling. Spending for the elementary school is up 5.86%, or $136,791, from $2.33 million to $2.47 million.

Bylaw articles

The Municipal Energy Storage General Bylaw to regulate large-scale battery storage in town would create a licensing board, which would have 60 days from close of hearing to render a decision on any proposals. The licensing board would be made up of members of the Selectboard joined by representatives from the Conservation Commission, Board of Health, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board is bringing forward a lighting zoning bylaw that is designed to encourage, through regulation, “the minimization of light pollution, light trespass, unnecessary glare and sky glow in Shutesbury” to preserve the natural, historical and aesthetic character of the town.

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The town’s Energy and Climate Action Committee is sponsoring an article that calls for adoption of the specialized energy code for buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, under the state’s stretch energy code. Some have expressed concerns about whether this would make new housing construction more expensive.

Finally, the Shutesbury solicitation bylaw, brought by police, would require people canvassing in town to have a registration certificate, which would be valid for up to 60 days.

Citizen’s petitions

Forest Allies for Responsible Solar is trying to pass a petition calling on the Selectboard to “urge our legislators and governor to end state incentives to site large-scale ground-mounted solar installations on connected forested land.”

The petition also calls for more state incentives to site large-scale ground-mounted and related solar installations on previously developed and/or disturbed land such as rooftops, brownfields and parking lots, and for legislation that allows municipalities to regulate construction of large-scale solar projects to preserve natural landscape, safeguard water supply and produce energy in a “climate-resilient and responsible way.”

The other citizen’s petition, if passed by voters, would give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections and at Town Meeting, as well as serve on town boards. It will require special legislation.

The warrant includes a series of free cash transfers, including $30,000 for the building committee renovation fund; $12,000 for body cameras for police; $70,588 for a police pickup cruiser; $29,500 for a storage unit, generator and propane tank for the Highway Department; and $12,000 from capital stabilization to rebuild portions of gravel roads.

Other articles

Other articles include:

■A municipal request for $150,000 to continue cleanup of contamination from so-called forever chemicals on Leverett Road. It’s the second request from Clean Water Trust, after expending the same amount this year. Town Administrator Becky Torres told the Selectboard that the town’s responsibility to remove the contaminants, though, will still not be finished.

■Adoption of a state law that would allow the Shutesbury Athletic Club to sell alcohol starting at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

■Creation of a revolving fund for the Cemetery Commission to pay for burial contractors and groundskeeping.

Town election

Shutesbury’s annual election runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at the elementary school.

According to information from Town Clerk Grace Bannasch, the only anticipated contest is between write-in candidates who are seeking a one-year position on the School Committee. Those candidates are Jessica Evans and Nathaniel Longcope.

The remainder of the ballot will have a mix of incumbents and newcomers, all running in uncontested races. They include incumbent Eric Stocker for a three-year position on the Selectboard; newcomer Leah Jack for a three-year position on the School Committee; and Planning Board incumbents Ashleigh Pyecroft for a one-year term, and Nathan Murphy and Jeff Weston for three-year terms.

Also on the ballot will be incumbents Wm Levine and Arleen Read for three-year positions on the Board of Health; incumbents Susan Millinger and Dina Stander for three-year seats on the Cemetery Commission; incumbent Elizabeth Murphy for a two-year position as library trustee, and incumbent Kate Cell and newcomer Pam Ososky for three-year seats as library trustees; and incumbents Graeme Sephton for a two-year seat and Stephen Schmidt for a three-year seat on the Municipal Light Plant Board.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.