Hoosick Falls residents question taxes on solar farms
HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — A public workshop was held in Hoosick on Wednesday to discuss the construction of a potential commercial solar farm in North Hoosick.
A vote for a moratorium is still up for debate with the town board as members listened to residents' concerns on how and who will be taxed if a commercial solar farm is implemented.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, residential installations can receive an income tax credit for 25 percent of the cost of the system at a $5,000 maximum. Locally, an installation is subject to a 15 year property tax exemption for the cost in order to avoid a rise in property taxes.
Some zoning board members were present at the meeting to answer any project related questions. As the zoning board and town board operate as separate entities, going forth with constructing a commercial solar farm is already in progress. Community members continue to fight for a moratorium to halt the project in order to learn more about taxes and solar farms.
"My concern is what's best for the people of the town of Hoosick," Councilman David Sutton said. "How can they see some tax benefit out of this, keep fairness to other businesses and how can we max something that increases our tax base and builds infrastructure that doesn't quell solar. We don't want to slam the door on solar completely and I don't think that's the best for everybody."
Questions arose about whether the owner of the farm would be exempt from taxes for 15 years. This would mean the town would not benefit from hosting the solar farm because the energy produced will be directed elsewhere; potentially into the Albany power grid.
"With the new laws that you're looking to put in, will there be a standard for these solar farms? If they're in wetlands, are they state wetlands or federal wetlands? Are they over aquifers?" Hoosick Falls resident Lisa Revet said. "At some point, if we're going to allow solar farms, whether we do or don't, there has to be a standard set for all of these farms."
In August, the idea of a moratorium was rejected by the town board. According to the zoning board's Oct. 5 minutes, resident Larry Bugbee appeared with a representative from NextEra Energy Resources seeking approval to establish a solar array at the intersection of Pine Street and Highway 22 in North Hoosick. Out of 42 total acres, the arrays would take up 10.
"As two commercial businesses right across the street from this thing, who employ people who pay taxes, there becomes a fairness question in my mind when you're talking a commercial entity that really doesn't have a direct impact unless you do something and they pay as a commercial just like any other business," Chairman Mark Surdam said.
The North Hoosick project is located in a residential/agricultural zoning district, according to the Nov. 2 zoning board minutes. At this point a solar committee was established to gather more information on the impacts and benefits of solar arrays.
Most issues that were brought up remain the same as ones mentioned at the board meeting from Jan. 11. These regard questions about the location, aesthetic impacts, fencing and potential hazards on the project.
On Feb. 3 the solar committee will host a public workshop at 7 p.m. to educate the public and answer any questions on solar farms and panels. The town of Hoosick meets for board meetings every second Monday of each month.
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