Waterbury will now have a greater say in the siting of renewable energy projects in town.
The Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission has issued the town a certificate of energy compliance, meaning its town plan conforms to the energy goals set forth by the state Department of Public Service.
Among those goals is having 90 percent of the electricity used in the state come from renewable energy sources by the year 2050.
Waterbury is the first municipality in the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission’s territory to seek a certificate of energy compliance. It is the 25th of the state’s 251 municipalities to have received the certificate; locally, they include Elmore and Stowe.
Waterbury officials were looking for three approvals from the regional planning commission — for the town plan, a finding that the town followed the correct process in creating the plan, and third, that the plan complies with the state’s energy goals.
In late May, officials received approval on the first two points; however, the regional planning commission neglected to properly warn the energy compliance portion of a public hearing hearing on its website, which required a second hearing in June.
During its regularly scheduled meeting in July, the regional planning commission issued the certificate of energy compliance to Waterbury. With the certificate, the town can automatically participate when a renewable energy proposal comes before the Public Utility Commission.
Waterbury’s town plan can remain in effect for as long as eight years. However, there is nothing to keep officials from making changes earlier. For example, the town could create more detailed rules regarding development in the Shutesville Hill Wildlife Corridor, something that doesn’t exist in the regional plan.
“Our plan can be more detailed than the regional plan, and just by nature, a municipal plan is usually more detailed than the regional plan,” said Steve Lotspeich, community planner for the town of Waterbury. “There’s nothing in the regional plan that would keep us from developing a plan regarding the Shutesville Hill Wildlife Corridor.”
Lotspeich said the planning commission is currently working with the conservation commission to address concerns about development in the corridor.
If officials do make substantial changes to the plan, it will trigger another review, said Clare Rock, senior planner with the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission.
“There’s nothing to stop the town from making changes to their town plan earlier than the eight-year time frame. Those changes would need to be approved and adopted in the same manner this plan was reviewed and adopted,” Rock said. “You can make a change if you find a typo, but, if after a year, they make changes around Shutesville Hill and update the plan, that would trigger a re-approval.”