By Meredith McCulloch
Tuesday night the Special Town Meeting approved Article 2 that modifies the Historic District Commission bylaw to allow solar panels on historic buildings in the district. The panels must meet specific guidelines as to color and placement but otherwise will not undergo HDC scrutiny.
The article was placed on the town meeting warrant by petitioners, a method that requires the town to put an issue before Town Meeting. (Ten signatures are required on a petition for the Annual Town Meeting Warrant and 100 signatures for the Special Town Meeting.)
That step followed a lawsuit by First Parish Church after the HDC turned down a request to install solar panels. The church challenged the decision in court and prevailed. The Selectmen decided to appeal.
A thorough debate at Town Meeting fell along lines familiar to those who have followed the issue. Selectman Mike Rosenberg described it as a conflict between two important values held by the town, preservation of our historic center and the town’s stated goal of Net Zero energy use. In the end, the bylaw amendment was approved 265 to 61.
Asked to comment on the next step, John Gibbons, senior minister at First Parish Church, said, “The congregation is appreciative of the respectful discussion at Town Meeting and the positive vote for the petitioners’ article. Though we hope the Selectmen will regard the outcome as a referendum favoring renewable energy, they now must decide whether to continue the Town’s appeal of the court’s decision. When this is ultimately resolved, First Parish is prepared to move forward with installation as soon as possible.”