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Town library, wind farm zoning are top Ashland items

ASHLAND — Voters will be deciding whether to make a large purchase at town meeting next month — whether to spend nearly $1 million on buying a historic town building to house what would be a new library.

Another item on the warrant is a proposal for a zoning amendment to deal with new wind farm projects.

When voters head to the polls on March 11 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ashland Elementary School gymnasium, they will be deciding on a $6.2 million budget, said Town Administrator Paul Branscombe.

The first warrant article they see will be Article 3, a petitioned article asking for $950,000 for the purchase, renovation and furnishing of the former elementary school property at 41 School St. from the Tri-County Community Action Program.

If passed, the money would convert the building, which has not been used as a school for several years, into a new town library, which many residents believe the town needs, Branscombe said.

If the article passes, the town would seek grants and private funding to aid in the cost of the building, but the town would need to raise the majority of the money through taxes. The article would have a significant impact on the town tax rate if passed, he said.

The article is recommended by the selectmen, 2-1, and not recommended by the budget committee, which voted against it, 4-2-1.

Residents will also vote on a zoning ordinance regarding large wind power developments in town that some residents have wrongly interpreted as being permissive of new projects, said Planning Board Chair Susan MacLeod.

The ordinance is aimed at local control, MacLeod said. It is based on zoning in Temple and other towns in the state, zoning laws that have given other towns a say in large energy projects.

The ordinance includes specific sizes and limits on projects, and requires in-depth studies of the effects of projects on the town, as well as thorough studies of decommissioning costs.

Ashland has not been approached by a wind power company, as many towns in the region have.

“But we looked at the other towns in the region, and we just decided to be proactive about it rather than having something forced on us,” MacLeod said.

Trace Adkins
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