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Farmers take stand against town

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In this Sept. 14, 2018 file photo, Eric Voellm of Coxsackie, far left in red, speaks about his support for solar projects to Saving Greene members The Friends of Flint Mine Solar filed suit against the town of Coxsackie claiming its local law barring construction of most solar-energy farms is illegal.
April 29, 2019 10:08 pm Updated: April 30, 2019 08:27 am

 

COXSACKIE — Friends of Flint Mine Solar, a group that represents 25 landowners, is suing the town of Coxsackie claiming the law it passed in November to bar development of most solar energy farms is illegal.

Friends of Flint Mine Solar including individual members Giuseppina Agovino, Luciano Agovino, Eric Meier, Diane Oringer, Franker Orginer and Mary Lou Zimmerman filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court on March 11.

The lawsuit names the town of Coxsackie and Town Supervisor Richard Hanse as defendants. The town has until the end of this month to respond to the suit, Friends of Flint Mine Solar president Giuseppina Agovino said.

The 100-megawatt solar farm proposed by Hudson Energy Development will provide struggling farmers with an opportunity, Agovino said.

“The land is no longer viable for any kind of vegetation or useful as farmland,” she said. “Farmers are aging out, trying to retire but can’t because no one wants the land.”

The company offered the community $500,000 a year for the life of the project, Agovino said.

“It is unfair to pass a law stopping farmers from making a living on their land,” she said. “We formed Friends of Flint Mine Solar so we would have a voice and have a say in what happens on our property.”

Lloyd Zimmermann, co-owner of Black Horse Farms in Coxsackie, agreed.

“I don’t believe anyone should be limited with what they can do with their property,” he said.

The land in question, which has clay soil, doesn’t drain well, Zimmermann said.

“It should be taken out of production,” he said. “It causes us too many headaches.”

Zimmermann farms 800 acres but has sold 22 acres in Coxsackie to Hudson Energy Development and is in negotiations with the company for another 75 acres in Athens, he said.

If the law remains in effect, it will put the transaction in jeopardy.

Coxsackie’s Local Law No. 2 will regulate solar farms in terms of the placement, design, construction and operation of solar-energy systems and ensure there will be no significant impacts on the environment or the town’s aesthetic qualities and character.

Giuseppina Agovino thinks the land would be ideal for meeting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal of having 70% of the state’s electricity be renewable by 2030.

“We are supposed to have a town that is progressing,” Zimmermann said. “People won’t come into town if we have all these requirements on certain parcels of land. It’s ridiculous.”

The town board is more opposed to an Article 10 than the project itself, Agovino said.

“Article 10 provides for the siting review of new and repowered or modified major electric generating facilities in New York state by the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment in a unified proceeding instead of requiring a developer or owner of such a facility to apply for numerous state and local permits,” according to dps.ny.gov.

Hanse declined to comment on the issue, citing the pending litigation.

Saving Greene, a watchdog group that strongly opposes the multiple solar projects that are proposed for the area, also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Agovino thinks the town is partly at fault because it did not perform a proper environmental review of the site.

“The town did not do its due diligence in filing the correct State Environmental Quality Review that needed to be filed,” Agovino said.

“They did not look at the positive impact on the land,” she said, adding that another solar farm underway by the Greene County Industrial Development Agency was found to have positive impacts when a proper review was performed.

Friends of Flint Mine Solar will not give up on the cause, Giuseppina Agovino said.

“We will keep going until we get the right to use our land how we want to use our land,” she said.

 

Comments
Hudson Talbout cautioned everyone at the Wheelebrator workshop last week. While a community can make a law to ban certain specific things, a solar farm or an ash dump (extreme contrast environmentally), single issue laws are problematic. This solar energy debate is a perfect example. The ash dump debate is probably solved other ways, such as making sure DEC says no on the science. The Greene County jail monster in Coxsackie similarly can be stopped by persistent proof it's simply to costly, not justifiable, and to convince USDA not to loan us the money. The legalmargument "not in the public interest" is powerful and the court of public opinion, and in the court.