Guest columnists Pat De Angelis, Ana Devlin Gauthier and Lynn Griesemer: The temporary moratorium failed, but we’re counting it as a win

  • View of an approximately 30-acre solar farm north of Pulpit Hill Road in Amherst on in August 2021. Gazette file photo

Amherst Town Councilors
Thursday, March 03, 2022

On Monday, Feb. 28, the Amherst Town Council voted not to pass a temporary moratorium on the permitting of large-scale solar in Amherst.

As this debate moved through development, review, recommendations, and votes we heard from many residents both for and against the proposed temporary moratorium. As the sponsors of the bylaw, we want to thank our community for their engagement, and explain why we remain optimistic about the direction of large-scale solar in Amherst.

The biggest reason the three of us believed a temporary moratorium was needed was to provide time to craft a bylaw specific to the siting and permitting of large-scale solar, something Amherst does not currently have, and to conduct a siting study to determine the best siting options and our usage needs.

At the beginning of this process, there was not a consensus among the relevant boards and committees that Amherst needed a specific bylaw relating to the permitting of large-scale solar arrays, despite it being a recommendation from our own Energy and Climate Action Committee (ECAC).

As the moratorium discussion continued, that opinion shifted and discussion turned to the need for a bylaw, but there was not a consensus on who should be drafting it, or just how much solar we needed as a town. Again, upon the recommendation of ECAC, we have asked the town manager to include a siting study and convene a working group to create this bylaw. This is being done as we speak and we would like to thank the town staff, Planning Board, and the Energy and Climate Action Committee for their continued work toward meeting our climate action goals in this way.

So, while the vote failed, we consider this to be a win. We will have a solar bylaw, and it will be informed by a siting study. Amherst will lead by responsibly siting large-scale solar installations and aggressively meeting our climate goals, with the policy to guide it.