City of Amsterdam extends solar moratorium


CITY OF AMSTERDAM – City officials will have more time to consider updating zoning codes related to solar projects following city council approval of a 60-day extension of the moratorium currently in place on projects solar.

The city council approved a local law on March 17 enacting a 120-day moratorium on solar energy installations and systems in the city to give authorities time to review and amend existing zoning laws. The freeze reportedly expired on July 14. City council on Wednesday approved another local law extending the 60-day moratorium until mid-September.

The Planning Council is leading the zoning review process and will recommend changes to the city code for possible adoption by city council subject to the approval of a local law.

The code currently allows solar projects in every zoning district in the city with minimal restrictions. The code requires setbacks of 100 feet from adjacent property lines and minimum areas of 50 acres which cannot exceed 100 acres.

Community members spoke widely against targeted solar projects for residential areas of the largely rural city. Residents praised city council on Wednesday for decreeing the moratorium and upholding the measure in a public hearing on local law to extend the shutdown for another 60 days.

“I’m here to thank you for putting the moratorium in place and we would like to see it extended. Our hope is that there are written laws that will prevent solar power utilities from on residential areas, ”said Melanie Coman.

Plans for a solar developer to submit an application for a project on more than 50 acres off Truax Road to the Planning Council have been temporarily halted by the current moratorium. The project would be located in the residential zoning neighborhood approximately 100 feet from Melanie and Thomas Coman’s home on Gay Lane.

“We’re very, very upset, we’re very, very worried,” said Melanie Coman. “We love the rural beauty of the city. We couldn’t sleep, we are sick of it.

“It’s our life and we love this city and we love living here,” added Thomas Coman.

The moratorium only applies to new project proposals; solar park applications that have been approved previously or that were submitted to the Town Planning Council before March 17 were not affected by the freeze.

This led the Planning Council on April 7 to approve a special use permit for a 5 megawatt solar project at 139 Mannys Corners Road, submitted by Community Power Group several months earlier.

The community solar power project will span approximately 25 acres on approximately 50 acres of land, with shielding provided by existing and newly planted evergreen trees. Angela Cowan, who lives across the street from the site on Jones Road, said the project would significantly reduce the value of her property.

“They’re going to put the entrance right in front of my house,” Cowan said. “I spoke to three different real estate brokers… and they all said the same thing. When [developers] tell you that your property values ​​are not going to go down, they are lying. They will fall.

Jeffery Leon, a resident of the city, has expressed support for extending the moratorium to give authorities enough time to revise zoning laws, but has spoken out against an outright ban on solar projects.

“I agree, I also don’t want to look at solar panels everywhere,” Leon said. “On the other hand, I think it can be done right.”

The solar projects could provide the city with a new source of income, Leon said, pointing to unused land locked behind roads that could serve as sites for the panels. He argued that the existing zoning law currently lacks only enforcement measures that the city can exploit to ensure that developers follow through on all elements of the project ordered by the planning council for approval.

James Kondrat, project developer at Borrego Solar, spoke out in favor of extending the solar moratorium at the public hearing until the city code can be revised.

“I think a bad location of these projects is hurting the industry,” Kondrat said. “In some cases, these developers come up with extremely large systems that have enough money to not worry about habitat and mitigation.”

A Borrego Solar sitemap application for a proposed 5 megawatt community solar project at 127 Church St. was blocked by the moratorium when it was submitted a day after local law was approved. The project would cover approximately 20 acres on a site of approximately 50 acres and would be set back 1,700 feet from the public road and 500 feet from neighboring properties.

Kondrat suggested that the city implement substantial road and residential property setback requirements as part of its modification process to protect amenities while still allowing projects to enter the city.

“We would be very, very happy to work with the city to ensure that we protect the homes of your citizens and your constituents. We want to make sure that this is an opportunity that is not going to upset the character and nature of this great city, ”said Kondrat.

Supervisor Thomas DiMezza anticipates that the planning council will complete its review and make recommendations to city council in the coming months. This would likely give the city enough time to hold the necessary public hearings and enact local law amending the zoning code accordingly before the extended moratorium expires in the fall.

Planning Council Chairman Brent Phetteplace said Thursday that “many” solar developers have attempted to submit project applications to the city since the moratorium was enacted.

“The applications that keep coming in are in closely related residential areas where solar companies in this region and this country want to place them next to people’s homes and take entire timber lots. Some are located on prime agricultural land, ”said Phetteplace.

The board would tend to recommend that solar projects be banned in residential areas, according to Phetteplace. He estimated that about 80% of the city is zoned residential.

“We have zoning in place to protect property values ​​and the two come into direct conflict with each other,” said Phetteplace.

If the city ultimately changes the zoning law to ban solar projects in residential areas, local laws could potentially be replaced in the future to allow large-scale solar projects in residential areas under the law of the State.

The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefits Act, approved last year as part of the state budget, aimed to speed up the licensing process for large-scale solar projects of 25 megawatts or more. Project approvals are issued by the State Office of Renewable Energy Citing. The approval process replaces the old section 10 process through the state selection board.

The Office of Renewable Energy Citing earlier this year adopted uniform regulations, conditions and standards for large-scale solar projects to which developers must adhere, effectively removing these elements from public discourse when considering proposals.

The state review process requires projects to comply with local laws as long as they are not found to be “unreasonably burdensome” to New York’s goal of getting 70% of the state’s energy supply. from renewable energy sources.

These large-scale solar projects typically require at least several hundred acres of property located near transmission lines capable of carrying the energy produced by the solar panels.

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