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'Stretch' Code Wins Town Meeting Approval

Despite late hour and being tabled earlier, tighter energy efficiency code passes on voice vote.

The Belmont Energy Committee’s tireless work to explain the economic and environmental benefits of the “stretch” energy code paid off when Town Meeting adopted the article just past 11 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11.

Article 20, requiring a two-thirds vote, was debated by representatives for about an hour before the decision finally took place at 11:20 p.m. on the fourth and final night of 2011 annual Town Meeting.

Throughout the discussion, it seemed the vote could go either way with equal numbers of proponents and opponents for the program to create new buildings that are 20 percent more energy efficient than what is currently required by state building codes.

The Energy Committee, co-chaired by Roger Colton of Precinct 6, held several forums this past year on the stretch energy code to explain its benefits to residents.

“By lowering your energy use, you lower your energy bills,” Colton said. “In every case, the homeowner who builds to the stretch code is better off from Day One. ” Colton also pointed to the positive results of having the stretch energy code such as lower energy bills and health benefits such as cleaner air, less pollution and gashouse emissions.

Moreover, he said, development will be occurring in Belmont in the coming year such as Cushing Square, on the Video Plus property and the Sandler Skate property along with about 10 residential tear-downs a year.

“Think of what will happen if we don’t adopt this,” Colton said. “Once someone builds a new building to less energy efficiency measures, no one will go back and fix that. Buildings last a long time.”

Opponents have said in the past -- and reiterated Wednesday night -- that if the economic benefits of adopting the stretch energy code are so good, people would naturally follow them without legislation.

Board of Selectman Angelo Firenze said adoption of the stretch code is another example of the state imposing a rule that people would do naturally.

“(People) don’t need to be told or legislated to save money,” he said.  Fifty years ago, the state decided we would have one building code until this.”

Firenze pointed out the state energy code will be changed in 2013 or 2013 and, therefore, Belmont should wait until it is changed.

“There are too many unknowns here,” he said in reference to his and others’ concern that adopting the code means adopting any changes the state may make to it in the future.

But those in favor of adopting the stretch energy code pointed to Town Meeting passing a resolution in 2009 to reduce greenhouse emissions by 85 percent in Belmont by 2050.

The town has a chance to join 72 other communities in the state and go beyond basic needs to achieve energy efficiency, said Monte Allen of Precinct 8.

“I was so proud to be a member of Belmont (when Town Meeting resolved to reduce greenhouse gasses),” he said. “We can do something a little better than what the state asks.”

This is not something being imposed on Belmont, Allen said.

“We have already chosen to do this,” he said. “We will voluntarily be doing something to achieve energy efficiency and take a lot of pride in it.”

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