Public to have say on solar law changes

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The town will hold a public hearing to gather community input on the proposed changes to Greenville’s law governing commercial solar facilities. Courtesy of Pexels

GREENVILLE — The town is considering changes to its existing regulations governing commercial solar facilities.

A public hearing will be held prior to the town board’s April 18 meeting, at 6:30 p.m., to gather community input on the proposed modifications.

The town board met with planning board chairman Don Teator and planning board member William Bardel prior to the town’s March 21 meeting to discuss the proposed changes to the town’s solar zoning law, which was originally adopted in 2018.

The planning board came up with the proposed changes in collaboration with town attorney Tal Rappleyea with input from town board members during a three-hour meeting of the planning board.

“We had a meeting a couple of months ago that went way above and beyond our usual and managed to hammer this out, basically in one night with help from Tal [Rappleyea],” Teator said of the proposed modifications. “It was a good group effort.”

The proposed changes only apply to commercial solar farms, not solar energy generated to power individual homes, Teator said.

Greenville and Greene County in general have become hot spots for solar farm proposals, with several proposed locally and a couple of major projects sited for nearby Coxsackie and elsewhere.

The industry is constantly changing, requiring the need for an updated law, but there wasn’t one specific project or issue that called for the change, Teator said.

“There wasn’t one particular thing,” he said. “But when you hear and see all the changes that we came up against and tried to settle some resolution — to reach some decision about something and then find out that we might not have had language on our side to make that happen, even if it seemed commonsense to us — we saw it was needed.”

The modified proposed law clarifies issues that may crop up as developers submit their proposals, Bardel said.

“It makes it more clear,” Bardel said. “Navigating this topic is challenging. We do the best we can, given how quickly commercial solar projects are evolving in New York state. We try to do these types of changes, taking into account all parties and trying to make sure that our local law is as clear and specific as possible to ensure that everybody is upfront and on the same page.”

The proposed modifications to the 12-page law also cover some areas that are not included in the existing law.

Among the changes is clarification on the requirement that commercial solar facilities have “minimal adverse impact” on the natural, environmental and historic resources of the town. The proposed modified zoning law adds verbiage requiring solar projects be designed and built to be “as compatible as possible with the character of the surrounding community.”

Clarifications are also added for requirements such as the timeframe for a developer to add trees and other landscaping to a site, how the project plans for the handling of toxic or hazardous materials, and how and where soil samples are collected for testing, among other changes.

The public hearing for the proposed zoning law modifications will be held April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pioneer Building, 11159 Route 32, Greenville.

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