COXSACKIE — Coxsackie residents shared their thoughts on the town’s proposed solar law that would regulate everything from home solar use to large-scale projects Tuesday.
The proposed solar law, aired at a public hearing, aims to accommodate solar energy collection systems while balancing potential impacts on neighbors and property owners, according to a draft of the proposed law. It would set provisions for the placement, design, construction and operation of solar-energy systems consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and ensure no significant impacts on the environment or the town’s aesthetic qualities and character.
The town enacted a moratorium on solar projects to protect the health, safety and welfare of town residents in December and added an additional six months in May to fine-tune the proposed law.A DIFFERENT TUNE
Unlike previous meetings devoted to solar energy, Tuesday night’s meeting received more positive comments from residents on large-scale projects such as Hecate Energy LLC’s 400-acre project proposed for the vicinity of Farm to Market Road.
Residents were given three minutes each for their comments.
The proposed solar law is unreasonable and discriminates against farms and farmers, Mark Flach said. One-third of Flach’s property is being considered for Hecate’s project, while the remainder will be devoted to agricultural and conservation uses.
“Your proposed code gives businesses and commercial zones the ability to generate revenue from clean renewable energy while it denies the farms and farmers the same ability,” he said.
The town is interested in protecting farmland but the proposed law will do the opposite, Flach said.
“It hurts many of the people it claims to protect,” Flach said. “It’s being driven by a relatively small group of people who repeatedly misstate the details of the project publicly.”
Evan Ulscht, a former Catskill village trustee, said he has heard excellent proposals from solar companies but compared them to an episode of “The Simpsons” in which the promoters of a new monorail system make grand claims that don’t come true. Because of this, Ulscht added, the resale values of homes will diminish.
“They put the monorail in and they promise everything and the monorail goes off the tracks the very first time it’s deployed,” Ulscht said. “I don’t see any real return other than lump-sum payments. I don’t see any of this power staying in the community.”
Ulscht asked the board to keep the people who would be affected by the project in mind.
“I have the utmost respect for the landowners that are trying to make their property profitable, but I feel as though they’re doing it on the backs of those who don’t have a choice,” Ulscht said.
Coxsackie has to stop putting moratoriums in place for every issue, Black Horse Farms owner Lloyd Zimmerman said, adding residents should worry more about what a big solar company can guarantee for them rather than what it’s producing.
“It’s about time we got up and got with the rest of the world and this will start it,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve been in favor of all the solar [projects]. First off, they’re all something that this county needs to generate to get it moving.”
Carol Metz does not oppose solar energy but fears Coxsackie will be overrun with large-scale projects, she said, adding regulations are needed.
“We’re like a magnet for every solar energy business, that is my fear,” she said. “Thank you for putting some regulation on it so that everyone doesn’t think we’re just a free place that they can just come and put their panels on.”
Large-scale solar projects shouldn’t divide residents and a fair agreement can be reached between the companies involved and the residents, Joseph Zanchelli said.
“It doesn’t have to be this long, drawn-out thing as long as you’re fair to everyone,” Zanchelli said. “We all live here, we all work here and we need to remember that we’re neighbors, family and friends.”
The town board will take all comments from the meeting into consideration and from there determine potential revisions to the law, Coxsackie Town Supervisor Richard Hanse said.
“We have to see where we are going forward,” Hanse said. “There may be changes and we may also be sitting back here again.”REACTIONS
Zimmerman supports solar coming to Coxsackie, as long as there is a fair balance, he said.
“It will bring revenue and Coxsackie needs revenue,” he said.
Mary Lou Zimmerman agreed the solar plants will give farmers new opportunities.
“Not many farms are economically feasible,” she said. “It’s not an agricultural community anymore.”
Kris Martin finds the Hecate project to be very different from Hudson Energy Development’s Flint Mine solar project, she said. Martin is a member of the group Saving Greene: Citizens For Sensible Solar, who oppose the Hecate project.
“Hecate would be on prime farmland, near housing and in an environmentally sensitive area with endangered species,” she said. “It would change the character of the town…100 houses would be affected — it would be right in your face, there’s no hiding it.”
Open Field Farms owner Giuseppina Agovino is concerned about the enormity of solar projects coming to Coxsackie, but restrictions can be enforced, she said, adding she’s been approached by eight different solar companies to build on her land.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad, cut in half, restrict it,” she said. “Everyone’s saying that they don’t want this in their backyards, but your power is coming from somebody’s backyard.”
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.