220px-Martha_Coakley_cropConsidering that our Governor is such a huge supporter of solar energy you would think our Attorney General would be as well, especially with the state law 40A Section 3 that reads as follows: No zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit or unreasonably regulate the installation of solar energy systems or the building of structures that facilitate the collection of solar energy, except where necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare. When asked Ms. Coakley refused to answer why the Ag approved anti-solar bylaws and deferred it to Margaret Hurley, Dir. of Municipal Law Unit. Ms. Hurley responded by saying the AG has limited power to disapprove local zoning, “[i]t is fundamental that every presumption is to be made in favor of the validity of municipal by-laws.” Adding “we regularly include a caution in our solar by-law decisions along the following lines: General Laws Chapter 40A, § 3 protects solar energy systems and the building of structures that facilitate the collection of solar energy … there are no court decisions to guide the Town and this Office in determining what qualifies as an unreasonable regulation of solar uses in contravention of G.L. c. 40A, § 3. However, the Town should be mindful of this requirement in applying [the zoning by-law] and consult closely with Town Counsel during the process.” So to understand this Catch-22 anti-solar approval, the AG tells the community although their zoning clearly conflicts with state law, it is fine as long as your application of the zoning doesn’t. So far there isn’t an anti-solar bylaw the AG won’t disapprove, even for the town of Lincoln that will deny you a permit if you plan to sell your solar energy (net metering), click here to get a list of towns and AG approved anti-solar bylaws. What is odd about this AG response is that if a community attempts to pass anti-medical marijuana treatment center zoning the Ag will disapprove and cite MGL 40A, the very same law that protects solar energy. MASOA is optimistic however that the AG will reconsider automatically approving anti-solar zoning, and instead disapprove with guidance coming from DOER Model Solar Guide (click here) and Model Solar Zoning (click here) … which we highly recommend if your own community is considering solar bylaws. Finally, the AG has offered to meet with MASOA members to discuss these changes to solar bylaw approval in mid April – watch for results in your April member newsletter!

 

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