Town leaders need to offer more clarity about their decisions

Published 9:39 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

To the Editor:

I read on the internet and hear from friends around the state that your newspaper’s report of the decisions by the Woodland Town Commissioners prohibiting a change in zoning to allow a solar farm and declaring a moratorium on future consideration of solar farms in the Woodland area have led to a certain notoriety for Woodland. (That is “notoriety” which is the negative form of “fame”, a distinction often neglected by those who seek celebrity.)

The report in the News-Herald seemed to me good reporting and a fair account of what went on at the town commissioners meeting. I was there. I am writing because of some of what happened and some of what did not happen on that night has led to the town’s decision possibly being misconstrued.

Because of extended periods of public comment during the meeting and a lack of anything but brief comments by the commissioners, it might be easily assumed that the commissioners’ decisions were ill informed, willfully ignorant and based on irrational fears. The public comment period did feature comments which were ill informed about the matter, which expressed ignorance of solar technology, and promoted amorphous and irrational fears about what might be the harmful consequences of locating a solar farm in the area.

The commissioners offered very little about why they were voting as they did on the zoning issue and the moratorium. However, as someone there observing the meeting, it seemed to me that the concern of the commissioners was principally one of Woodland already having three solar farms in the works for the area, and another solar farm would mean Woodland would be “surrounded on all sides” by solar farms and the “appearance” of the approaches to town would be monopolized by solar farms.

If these were the reasons for their decision, then they were making a zoning decision about the appearance of the town and there being enough solar farms in the area, not a decision against solar farms as such.

Also, in declaring a moratorium, they were again not deciding against solar farms as such, but were instructing the zoning planning board of their decision to limit the number of solar farms to three within their jurisdiction. After all, Woodland, it appears, will have three solar farms. Of course it would be helpful if the town commissioners on the occasion of their next meeting would themselves clarify the meaning and significance of their decisions.

The notoriety about what was said in the town commissioner’s meeting and the decisions made there are not good for Woodland. We face many changes in Woodland and most of them are not changes for the better. Sometimes change brings out the worst in us and sometimes the best.

As someone who was there at the meeting, I was gratified to see the concern for our town demonstrated by such a large attendance a town board meeting. I was also encouraged to see that we care about our town, even though we may at times have very different views of what would be good for Woodland.

We do not want this town to die, but to live and prosper. This meeting of the town commissioners demonstrated that we have the energy and the will to renew our town, and I continue in the hope that we will be given the wisdom and the skill to do it.

Robert Gosney