Chilmark considers becoming a Green Community


Chilmark selectmen examined the possibility of their town earning Green Energy Community status in a discussion Monday about what it takes to achieve a higher energy efficient standard.

The designation requires the town to establish a baseline for energy use and reduce that baseline by 20 percent over five years. In addition to saving on energy costs, it would make the town eligible for the Green Communities Grant program.

Tisbury and West Tisbury have already been designated Green Communities by the Department of Energy Resources Green Communities division and have reaped the financial benefits.

Tisbury this year was awarded $140,925 to fund clean energy products, and West Tisbury was awarded $143,250 through the Green Energy program. In total, 103 out of 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts are enrolled in the program.

At the selectmen’s meeting on October 16, Seth Pickering, Southeast Regional Coordinator for the Green Communities program, outlined the requirements and benefits of the program.

Selectmen have not decided whether to join the program. That decision will need to be approved by voters, and new zoning bylaws to facilitate the program will need a two-thirds vote of approval at town meeting.

Mr. Pickering said the town will need to meet five criteria to be designated a Green Community.

He said the town must provide as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable energy generation and adopt an expedited application for as-of-right energy facilities. The town must also establish an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years.

The town must also buy only fuel-efficient vehicles and minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction. One way to meet the last criteria is to adopt the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code, Mr. Pickering said.

Mr. Pickering reminded selectmen they are not required to join the program. “This is an optional program; this is not a mandate,” he said. “If you decide to move forward, the selectmen will decide then how we start working to make the five pieces of the puzzle come together.”

Mr. Pickering said that meeting the final criteria, to minimize the life-cycle energy costs of new construction, has been the most difficult. But he also warned the next set of base building codes would be fairly similar to the current stretch codes.

For the most part, selectmen asked questions and did not indicate if they favored joining the program.

Selectman Warren Doty asked if the current plan to build a solar array at the capped town landfill would satisfy the as-of-right siting requirement. The answer was no. The town would have to adopt zoning changes to satisfy the criteria.

Executive secretary Tim Carroll noted that reducing energy use by 20 percent over five years might be difficult for a small town like Chilmark, because there is not much fat to cut. Mr. Carroll said the town does not have any streetlights, and many town buildings have already been built to a higher energy-efficient standard.

But Mr. Pickering said it was still possible. “When you see a map of where we have green communities there are a lot of towns like yours that have already been designated,” he said. “There are a lot of towns in western Mass. that are small communities with small populations. You have already done a lot, sure, but it does not mean we can’t get there without trying.”

Mr. Pickering ended by saying the town will have a year to decide if they want to apply to be designated a Green Community. He also said he’d come back for a future meeting to answer additional questions.

In other business, selectmen held a joint meeting with the board of health and unanimously agreed to appoint Matt Poole to fill the remainder of Mike Renehan’s term on the board of health. Mr. Renehan died on September 28 after a long battle with cancer.

Both selectmen and members of the board of health said they were surprised that five applicants — Mr. Poole, Janice Brown, Sarah Shipway, Chip Leonardi and Allen Healy — came forward to fill the remainder of the term expiring in April.

“I am happy to see a lot of interest,” selectman Bill Rossi said.

Mr. Rossi said that before his death, Mr. Renehan said he planned to ask selectmen to designate Mr. Poole as his successor.

After voting to appoint Mr. Poole, selectmen and board of health members thanked the applicants and encouraged them to both run for the seat in the April elections and attend meetings in the meantime.

Selectmen also unanimously voted to open the commercial bay scallop season on Nashaquitsa Pond on October 29. The season will run three weeks, and fishermen are allowed to harvest up to two full heaping bushels each day.

The commercial bay scallop season in Menemsha Pond will open on November 19, also with a limit of two heaping bushels per day. Orange buoys will mark the open area in Menemsha Pond.

Commercial fishing days are Monday through Friday, 7 am to 4 pm. Check-in is no later than 4:10 pm.

Selectmen also agreed to open the family/recreational oyster season on October 29 in Tisbury Great Pond. The family limit is one half bushel per week.