Will Aquinnah become a Green Community?

From left: Liz Argo, Jeff Madison, Evan Melillo, Jim Newman, and Gary Haley stand next to the Chevy Bolt. — Lucas Thors

Aquinnah selectmen met with Department of Energy Resources Green Communities state director Nick Connors regarding two town meeting warrant articles allowing the town to apply for Green Community status.

Bill Lake, a member of the Aquinnah energy and climate committee, described the Green Communities designation as a “state incentives program encouraging towns to be more energy-efficient.”

“That encouragement is expressed, in part, by the state providing substantial monetary grants to qualified communities,” Lake said.

The central point Connors discussed with the board was the Green Communities designation grant program.

Currently, Connors said, there are 240 designated communities, including the Island towns of Tisbury and West Tisbury. Chilmark just approved the two town meeting articles at its April town meeting.

Aquinnah voters will decide whether to approve these articles at the annual town meeting on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 pm.

Connors said the program is funded for up to $20 million in grants annually for qualifying communities. Once a community is designated, it receives an automatic grant based on per capita income of the town by the Department of Energy Resources. After communities implement energy-saving practices funded by the designation grant, they can come back for competitive grants with a cap of $250,000.

There are five criteria to being qualified as a Green Community:

The first is for the town to designate a limited site in town that is available for renewable energy projects (municipal or commercial). An “as of right” zoning overlay has already been approved by the planning board and the selectmen at the town landfill, where a solar array already exists.

The second is to promise expedited permitting response for renewable energy projects at the site.

The next step is to establish an energy baseline at town buildings, and set a five-year target for good faith efforts to achieve a 20 percent reduction in energy use.

The fourth is to agree to buy fuel-efficient municipal vehicles (police cruisers and heavy-duty vehicles are exempted).

Finally, the town must adopt the Massachusetts building stretch code for energy efficiency. This code involves “enhancing the state’s base building code, aimed at improving energy efficiency and lowering energy costs for the homeowner,” Connors said.