HARVARD -- Selectmen met Tuesday night for the sole purpose of reviewing and signing the warrant for the Special Town Meeting set for Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m.
Called primarily to consider zoning changes initiated by the Planning Board to allow a solar facility to be built in the commercial district on Ayer Road, two of the five articles on the STM warrant relate specifically to that purpose.
Article one seeks to amend Chapter 125 Protective Bylaw-125-23, permitted uses in C District, adding "large-scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic facilities" to the list via an "overlay district."
Article two seeks to amend Chapter 125 Protective Bylaw - 125-53 to create the overlay district on "land shown as parcels 25 and 27 on assessor's map 4" on Ayer Road.
Selectmen previously discussed finding a suitable place for the two proposed solar farms, envisioned as shared facilities folks can tie into if their homes or businesses are not suited for solar arrays, either structurally or due to location.
At that time, they talked about the advisability of rezoning the C District to allow this use and debated whether it was better to do it piecemeal, that is, to re-zone only one identified parcel or the entire area.
Some felt the former was fair, while others believed the latter was more practical. In the end, selectmen and the Planning Board reached consensus on a circumscribed overlay district versus a more expansive rezoning option.
According to Town Hall Building Committee Chairman Peter Jackson, restrictive setbacks now required from a designated roadway would then be discontinued as well, allowing a more flexible footprint for the Town Hall renovation and addition project.
Article four seeks leasing authority for selectmen to rent temporary space to house Town Hall during the renovation.
One of two ideas they've been mulling -- the other being to move Town Hall operations to the old library -- Town Administrator Tim Bragan was asked to look into rental options and bring back cost estimates for comparison.
One building Bragan looked into that could provide the right footprint and a few added perks was on Devens.
A couple of selectmen argued strongly for the old library as the best bet, since the town owns the building and there would be no rent to pay. However, there would be associated costs to retrofit the building and a moving bill, either way.
Other drawbacks were also noted. For example, if muncipal operations move to the old library during Town Hall renovations, it might displace the Cable Committee housed there now and would certainly postpone plans that a nonprofit organization has in the works to re-create the space as a cultural center.
Tuesday night, selectmen debated the issue for some time, with Ron Ricci and Bill Johnson advocating for limiting rental options to Harvard only, not Devens.
Ricci and Johnson also called for the article to spell out lease parameters so that only the lowest cost option would be considered.
The upshot of the discussion was that the article was amended.
The new version rules out a move to Devens and specifies that any lease option would be "the lowest cost solution for the relocation of town offices."
Article five asks voters to approve the transfer of custodial care and management of the old library building on Fairbank Street from the library trustees to the Board of Selectmen and to authorize selectmen to rent or lease the building to a nonprofit organization.