Guest columnist Kevin Weir: Shutesbury should honor vote on solar bylaw


Published: 08-09-2023 2:32 PM

Our family is concerned about the recent events related to the amended bylaw passed by an overwhelming number of Shutesbury residents in a special Town Meeting last winter.

We voted with our unanimous fellow townspeople for the amended bylaw regarding solar arrays. We assume our elected representatives will honor that legal vote and pass the amended bylaw.

The bylaw does not prohibit reasonable solar development in Shutesbury. It does limit the size of the lithium battery storage permitted per project. We have a tiny fire department with some volunteer members. We hate to think of the devastation a lithium battery fire would cause to our drinking water, forests and air. We know that such a fire would be uncontainable in the best of circumstances.

We have seen rapid unchecked development and over-optimism of new technologies. The rapid implementation of these developments without concern for the unintended consequences they may cause has often resulted in horrid environment damage.

Solar industrial arrays are not farms. They are not sustainable. There are better and more effective and efficient alternatives. Solar arrays offset carbon sequestering slightly better than forests, but carbon sequestering is only a small benefit in addressing climate change. Forests provide far more benefit to our community than just sequestering carbon and I think we all know this. Forests and the life they support form a complex web of interdependent relationships that play a critical role in preventing soil erosion and floods, providing clean water for agriculture and towns, enriching the soil with vital nutrients, and ameliorating the greenhouse effect. No amount of reforestation can replace this highly developed and diverse system which has taken millennia to evolve.

What kind of society would trade the magnificence of these forests and the splendor of the life that inhabits them for industrial profit? To allow these unchecked developments is to permanently foreclose the possibility of exploration and the benefits generated by new discoveries. Who knows what secrets these forests may hold?

We have recently seen op-ed pieces in the Greenfield Recorder by non-Shutesbury residents reprimanding Shutesbury residents for passing the new Shutesbury bylaw. They infer that town meetings are not a valid expression and process for a town. They want our rich industrialists and landowners to decide what is best for the peasants. One op-ed writer is a real estate developer and the other is a self-professed ex-Republican politician, who runs a development consulting firm. I’m sure both benefit from supporting their fellow real estate colleague, who also doesn’t live in this town, in this matter.

We are a nation of laws. Our bylaw should reflect the due process it followed under the law. We are landowners in town and understand our right to determine what happens on our land. We also have followed the bylaws and jurisdiction of our Conservation Commission. We believe in regulation for the sake of all. We don’t violate principle for profit. We support the efforts to develop appropriate bylaws at the start of projects. This can protect everyone from unintended consequences. Protecting water, soil and habitats is our first priority as a species. The Conservation Commission has a process that must be followed legally. It sets conditions of development and defines the scope of the projects before it using the law. Setting boundaries before projects proceed allows the safest methods to be used as required by state, federal and local bodies.

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As members of the town and as landowners in Shutesbury, we are relieved that the town has developed a new amended bylaw and hope town officials honor the trust we have given them to represent the will of the majority of voters on the b-law just as they have for the new library. The Conservation Commission is commended for looking out for the town residents.

Kevin Weir lives in Shutesbury.