Hoosick residents question commercial solar farm

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HOOSICK, N.Y. — Two issues regarding commercial solar farms resurfaced at the Town Board meeting Monday.

About 30 residents turned out for what they thought would be a public hearing concerning solar farms, but instead, a workshop to discuss the conflict was scheduled.

A public hearing is not expected until thoughts and comments return from the town's attorney, which he said could be up to two months until that happens.

"There are safety issues. You're running high voltage electric lines within maybe 60 yards from the biggest propane tank in this town," Cynthia Brewster, certified residential real estate appraiser and Hoosick resident said. "You have not addressed our concerns adequately. I am asking that a formal document be written in a way that stop all current permits, and that can be done."

A workshop scheduled for Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Hoosick Armory Youth Center & Community Coalition (HAYC3) in Hoosick Falls will be for community members to voice their opinions on the local law about Real Property Taxation on Solar or Wind Energy Systems as well as the impacts a commercial solar farm will have on the town and property neighbors. Following that, another workshop will be held on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. at HAYC3 looking at the pros and cons of solar units as well as bringing in some local education persons.

At the Aug. 10 meeting, according to the board's minutes, the board tabled the proposed local law number two of 2015 for a temporary moratorium on Large Scale Ground Mounted Solar Arrays. It decided more information was needed and neglected to schedule a public hearing for the law.

On Aug. 24 the board held a discussion on solar farms where Zoning Chairman Jim Hoag suggested establishing a checklist for establishing a solar farm.

"The Board has been going case by case," he said, according to the minutes. "There are things in the zoning law they can work with but no real guidelines to follow. A check-off list would be helpful."

A checklist is also something community member Mike Brewster urged at the meeting on Monday.

"There's a lot of legitimate concerns, and a lot of support too," Brewster said. "But as I see that, and those questions that get raised, the zoning commission had the applications in front of them and said they do it on a case by case basis and they wish they had a checklist. I'd like to see checklists that you work your way through."

Board member David Sutton stated on Aug. 24 that landowners may not want to live next to a huge solar farm and he wouldn't either. He also said that residents need to be protected with regulation.

Zoning Board member Wally Sheffer added that the solar farm project related to the school will produce power for the residential area, however power from other farms is being generated for other areas.

At that point a committee was established to gather information on solar farms that consists of Town Board member Jeff Wysocki, Zoning Board member Andy Beaty, and Planning Board members Andrea Diel, Larry Bugbee and Gary Kjelgaard.

According to the Zoning Board minutes, On Nov.2 , Rensselaer County Republican Chairman Larry Bugbee approached the Zoning Board with an application to establish solar panels on an acreage of farm he purchased in Hoosick. Issues raised at this point included the aesthetic impact of neighbors' view of the natural environment and the value of their residences as well as the economic and environmental benefits. Bugbee noted that the project did not involve any health hazards, "other than those associated with management of electricity, akin to that associated with other electric facilities," as stated in the minutes.

A State Environmental Quality Report (SEQR) assessment was completed by the board and resulted in finding that the project wouldn't lead to environmental impacts. Bugbee's application was approved upon three contingencies:

• Bugbee must submit a landscaping plan at the next meeting for the south and west faces of the six foot fence that surrounds the solar array.

• There shall only be signage on the fencing placement.

• When construction is complete, a third party electrical engineer must present the board with documentation saying it meets all National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements as well as a certification granting that the construction was completed in compliance.

Hoosick resident Stacy Parker submitted maps from 2012 of Bugbee's proposed land that he used as part of his application to the Army Corps of Engineers Volunteer Clearinghouse.

"I took with my phone a picture of the proposed solar farm, I'm not sure if you're aware of the fact that this is an outdated photo," she said. "Where the propane tanks are located now, they're not on this picture. To me, that doesn't accurately reflect that property or the surrounding properties."

On Dec. 28, the board tabled local law number four for Real Property Taxation for Certain Solar or Wind Energy Systems or Farm Waste Energy Systems in order to gain more information.

"I know they [the committee] have until April, and I would certainly recommend right now, that no matter what phase any single project that is in place and ongoing right now, that it stops," Brewster urged. "It stops, right now, because this board thought it was important enough to have a committee look at it and gave them six months to determine what do we want to do in our town."

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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