China planners decide to schedule two public hearings

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members decided at their Feb. 22 meeting that they need at least two public hearings. They scheduled one, on SunRaise Investments’ expanded solar project on Route 3 (see The Town Line, Feb. 3, p. 3), for their March 8 meeting, with a review of the application to follow.

One or perhaps two hearings on amendments to China’s Land Use Ordinance remain to be scheduled. Board member are dealing with two separate issues; they have drafted amendments to two chapters and wording for a proposed new chapter.

Land Use Ordinance amendments need approval from local voters and from state regulators. Municipalities may have stricter environmental regulations than the state’s, but they are not allowed to be less stringent.

The amendments to Chapter Two and Chapter Eleven were approved by China voters in 2019 and conditionally approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in May 2021. DEP staff listed changes they required for full approval. Planning board members presented revised versions to the select board in the summer of 2021, aiming for a November vote.

Select board members were not satisfied with the planning board’s format and took no action. Planners resubmitted their request at the end of January for the June 14 town business meeting.

Select board members accepted the revised version at their Feb. 14 meeting, but rescinded their vote Feb. 21. Reasons given were that not all the DEP changes were included, and planning board members had held no public hearing as they worked on the document in the spring of 2021.

Planning board members agreed on Feb. 22 that a hearing should be held. Veteran board member James Wilkens thought all DEP changes had been included, and wondered if an incomplete version had somehow reached the select board. He insisted that planning board members can re-review a document they already approved only after select board members send them specific recommended changes to consider.

The other proposed ordinance change is addition of a new Chapter Eight to the Land Use Ordinance, titled “Solar Energy Systems Ordinance.” Town Attorney Amanda Meader had sent comments on the draft; planners discussed them briefly, but took no action.

Documents related to proposed ordinance amendments are on the town website, china.govoffice.com, under the Planning Board (which is listed under Officials, Boards & Committees).

The March 8 planning board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room. The public hearing will be advertised ahead of the meeting.

 
 

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