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Mendon Becomes Greener

The 51 registered voters at the June 6 Special Town Meeting agreed that Mendon should be a little greener.

By passing a series of bylaw changes, the voters helped ensure the town will be designated as a Green Community and, according to Anne Mazar, chair of the Mendon Land Use Committee, eligible for a number of state and federal grants for energy saving programs.

Action on the Green Community articles began with a unanimous vote to amend the Mendon by-laws by adding a section allowing a Large-Scale Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic Facilities (SPF) Overlay District. Primarily affecting the residential zone, the overlay district would allow SPFs on five specific properties—7.27 acres on Harrington St. near the Hopedale town line owned by the Sabatinelli family; 31.87 acres on Milford St. (Rt. 16) owned by the town and known as the Fino Property; plus three parcels- 29.8 acres at 28 Bellingham St., 12.73 acres at 32 Bellingham St. and 11 acres at 18-R Bellingham St., owned by the Ferrucci family and formerly used as the town dump. Officials said a firm had expressed interest in locating a SPF in Mendon.

In a second related by-law change, voters unanimously agreed to exclude Large-Scale Ground Mounted SPF units from the list of prohibited uses in Mendon.

In the final Green Communities decision, voters in a majority decision agreed to add a Stretch Energy Code chapter to the town's by-laws. The new code will mandate that any new structure or addition, residential or commercial that requires a building permit, to be constructed in such a way that it is 20 percent more energy efficient that the current Massachusetts Building Codes. Historical structures will be exempted from the requirement. According to officials as the Massachusetts Building Codes change to make new construction more energy efficient, towns such as Mendon with the Stretch Energy Code will be required to maintain the 20 percent higher standards.

They noted that the higher energy efficient standards will make construction more expensive but expect property owners will recoup that cost within three to five years due to energy savings. Voters who spoke up against the new code were primarily worried that Mendon was linking a town by-law too closely to state standards, which could be changed at the whim of the Massachusetts legislature.

Special Town Meeting voters also unanimously approved two other by-law changes, which supporters say will help the town attract more commercial development and Selectmen Lawney Tinio added will pave the way for a future Town Meeting to increase the depth in the business zone from the current 200-feet to 400-feet.

The first change was a complete update of the Site Plan Review, which allows the Planning Board to govern how commercial developments are built in Mendon. The new by-law will impact all new commercial construction, additions or alterations of 500 square feet or more, additions or changes resulting in 1,000 or more square feet of impervious surface and any land disturbance to more than one acre.

Voters were most concerned about language stating the Planning Board would decide if the proposed development would be "related harmoniously to the natural landscape and terrain, the surrounding townscape, and to the use, scale and siting of existing structures in the vicinity." Alan Kent asked language was too subjective while Mike Watson wondered if future boards would have the same standards for judging the development as the current board. Planning Board chair Bill Ambrosino said the intent was to have commercial development blend in with the town's character and Town Counsel had reviewed the language.

The final change extends the town's business zone another 27.56 acres from Rt. 16 for the town-owned Fino property. Officials said this acreage is across the street from the Mendon Drive-In and would make it more attractive to businesses.




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