Select Board considers housing study, energy plan

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MANCHESTER — The Select Board held the first of two public hearings Tuesday on a proposed energy plan for the municipality, a document that outlines goals and projections related to renewable energy usage.

If the board adopts the plan, and if it in turn is certified by the state and Bennington County Regional Planning Commission, it will give the municipality "a little more say" with the Vermont Public Utility Commission, the panel that reviews

solar projects.

The state panel would be obligated to consider the local plan when conducting public hearings on proposed projects, said Janet Hurley, the town's planning and zoning director.

The Planning Commission voted in December to advance the proposed plan to the Select Board for consideration. The commission opted not to identify specific parcels in town that might be especially suitable for solar or wind projects, Hurley said, but the plan does include a map that depicts areas that need to be protected from development because of environmental constraints or other factors.

The 30-page plan also serves as an "aspirational document" that includes town policies on energy issues, Hurley said. The policies are depicted in orange italics to stand out.

"Manchester will reduce the use of petroleum based fuel sources for heating and transportation while increasing the use of renewable sources, including electricity powered alternatives," the plan states. Pursuing such a goal "will have multiple beneficial results for Manchester, including long-term costs savings, a more robust, resilient, and sustainable local economy, and a cleaner more resilient natural environment."

The local energy plan is also intended to support statewide energy goals, which include drawing

90 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2050. Another state goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2028, but emissions have risen in recent years, according to data from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

The local plan also sets out goals for the town government's energy use. New town buildings will need to be energy efficient and new streetlights will use LED technology, the plan states.

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The municipality will also "continue to support extension of bike and pedestrian pathways" and "encourage dense development of its core." It will also "seek to replace gasoline powered vehicles with electric and alternative fuel vehicles as the technology becomes available for specialized town uses."

The plan states that no utility-scale wind energy facilities, or turbines with capacities of 100 kilowatts or greater, should be located within the town, but that it encourages development of smaller-scale wind projects at farms, town-owned sites "or school and business campuses."

Ground-mounted solar facilities should not exceed a height of 30 feet, while wind-related installations should not exceed 120 feet, the plan states.

Facilities "should not be sited in locations that adversely impact important scenic views," and "the use of perimeter fencing around solar installations should be limited to avoid adversely impacting both aesthetics and wildlife," the plan states. The plan suggests using "natural vegetative screening" instead of fencing.

The town does not have jurisdiction over the development of energy facilities in town, Hurley said, but this language could influence Public Utility Commission proceedings.

"What we're seeing is that people are really interested in renewable, alternative forms of energy — but they don't want to see it," said Chairman Ivan Beattie.

There are currently 69 solar installations in Manchester, according to the plan.

The town's energy committee, which is the same body as its Conservation Commission, Hurley said — should publicize renewable energy strategies "within the commercial and industrial sectors" at an annual energy fair or more frequent workshops, the plan states. That committee could also keep the Select Board apprised of advances in technology that might warrant updates to the energy plan, Hurley said.

Only one member of the public, Sylvia Jolivette, a frequent presence at board meetings, attended the Tuesday night meeting.

The board will hold a second public hearing on the plan next month. A copy of the plan is available on the town's website and at the town clerk's office.

Contact Luke Nathan at


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