Opinion: Solar Power The Best And Brightest Use For Incinerator Site

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By Martin Plass

We as the town have to decide soon on the future use of the incinerator site. The Board of Selectmen discussed this in their meeting on Thursday, June 7 and there will be a meeting for public input on June 18 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall. I urge the public to attend and voice their input and concerns.

One thing that concerns me is the temptation to find a commercial usage for the property that will maximize the income for the town instead of using the opportunity to enhance the beautiful natural conservation lands that surround the incinerator site. We as the town are already working on improvements to Rock Meadow with an agricultural consultant. With the McLean Barn upgrades being considered on the south end and the incinerator site on the north end of Rock Meadow we can further develop this area into a beautiful park and recreation land that integrates into the Western Greenway with Lone Tree Hill and Habitat to the East and Beaver Brook to the West. (By the way: I would love to see the McLean Barn turn into a café or beer garden, maybe with artist lofts spaces and a visitor information center that could provide some income to the town and would be a great place to enjoy a refreshment after a walk).

One proposal that has come up is to use the incinerator site for an anaerobic digester that would turn organic waste (food leftovers, etc.) into methane gas that would be burned on site and generate electricity (think Deer Island). I am concerned about this usage and worry that it could seriously interrupt the natural beauty of the area by bringing undesirable odors, noise from the generator, exhausts from burning methane, and heavy truck traffic to the site. While the prospect of making money with such a plant and providing renewable energy to Belmont is tempting, we need to make sure that such a use is in harmony with the areas around it and has none of these negative side effects. For the same reason, I am opposed to developing any parcels for housing. This would convert natural recreational space into private restricted space, something that could not be reversed.

Instead, I can see a community-owned solar array as a possible compromise usage which would generate some income for the town and fit with our climate action goals. Solar would not produce any noise, traffic, smells or other negative effects on the site and could be set-up to allow vegetation underneath and secondary use in combination with it. I like the proposal from one interest group that combines a community solar array with a bike park, a skateboard park, some DPW containers and a boardwalk for nature viewing as well as parking to serve as an additional access point to Rock Meadow and the Western Greenway.

I hope to see many Belmontians turn up for the June 18th meeting and look forward to seeing other proposed uses. To me, the overriding criteria should be to use the site to enhance our recreational nature areas for the enjoyment of the entire community.

Martin Plass lives on Stanley Road and is a Town Meeting Member representing Precinct 3

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Comments

  1. says

    If you’re interested in how a bike park might work at the incinerator site, the Belmont Citizens Forum Newsletter published an article last year about this:
    Read it athttp://www.belmontcitizensforum.org/2017/07/10/the-future-of-the-incinerator-site/

  2. Madeliene Marino says

    Hi,

    I believe that a major problem with building a Solar Farm on the Incinerator Site is that it appears that the multi million dollar cost to design, build and maintain the Solar Farm, as well as the additional expense of connecting the Solar Farm to a BELMONT LIGHT substation, would fall on all of us, the rate payers of BELMONT LIGHT. In effect, in order to pay for this, it would be necessary for BELMONT LIGHT to impose a huge rate hike on our monthly electric bills.

    BELMONT LIGHT and the WATER DEPARTMENT are each, individually, separate entities from the town. BELMONT LIGHT and the WATER DEPARTMENT are funded solely from their rate payers. BELMONT LIGHT’S
    operation and budget is funded solely from the income raised through the
    payment of our electric bills, while the WATER DEPARTMENT is funded solely from income raised through the payment of our water bills. All
    other Town Departments are funded from the Town mostly through the payment of our real estate taxes

    It appears that since Belmont, unlike most other cities and towns, owns its own Light Department, if we built a Solar Farm, it would probably be under the custody and control of BELMONT LIGHT, while other towns and cities
    could produce electricity for their town / city buildings or sell the electricity they produce to a separate power company.

    Other cities and towns would have to use funds to build a Solar Farm either
    from funds already on hand or from a Prop.2 1/2 Override to raise property taxes. In our situation, I don’t believe funding could be obtained from a Prop
    2 1/2 vote to raise property taxes since BELMONT LIGHT is funded by its rate payers, not through town real estate taxes.

    In addition, one need look no further than what happened, not that many years ago, at Town Meeting when at different times, both BELMONT LIGHT and the WATER DEPARTMENT requested a majority vote of Town Meeting
    Members to approve millions of dollars for the purchase and installation of the newest, most technically advanced electric meters and water meters
    for every household in Belmont. With little to no debate or opposition, to the cost or necessity for these meters,Town Meeting voted to approve these multi million dollar requests that would not even have been considered as something for a Prop. 2 1/2 Override, but because the bill for these purchases could be paid by increasing the rates of our electric and water bills, these costly purchase breezed through Town Meeting.

    Question: Would a vote for a Solar Farm be voted on at Town Meeting
    rather than a Prop. 2 1/2 Override?

    Let’s be realistic, the multi million dollar cost of a Solar Farm would not even be a consideration for a Prop. 2 1/2 Override when we were told just a few years ago, at the time of our last Prop. 2 1/2 Override Vote, that we would need another Prop. 2 1/2 Override in a few year in order to balance the budget. In addition, we will also soon be asked to vote on a Prop. 2 1/2 Override for a $ 330,000,000 school to house grades 7-12. ( I don’t know if the
    School Department has even considered the additional transportation costs to bus all of these children or the cost of the Police Department for additional crossing guards).

    Another issue to consider is that I believe that I heard either at a Selectmen ‘s Meeting or at a Light Board Meeting, some time ago, that the Town could sell BELMONT LIGHT if it ever wanted to or if it had to.

    Question: If a Solar Farm was ever built on the Incinerator Site that was under the custody and control of BELMONT LIGHT, could the Town of Belmont still
    sell BELMONT LIGHT in the future ? Would this be in compliance with the terms and conditions set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in their Agreement to sell the Incinerator Property for such a low price to the Town? I remember hearing something to the effect at a Selectmen’ s Meeting that the Town couldn’t sell off any of the property..

    At any event, I hope that this letter will raise the question of who would ultimately have to pay for the construction and continued maintenance of
    a multi million dollar Solar Farm. This important question really has to be asked and answered to the satisfaction of the residents of our Town so that people will know where they stand on this issue.

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