Forum targets local input on solar law – NYVT Media

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By EJ Conzola II

The developers behind a proposed solar farm in the Town of Hartford were peppered with questions about the project from the roughly 40 residents who turned out for an April 9 public forum intended to focus on planned upgrades to the town’s solar regulations.

Many of the questions and comments during the 75-minute forum focused on the details of ActiveSolar Development’s plans for a potential 5-megawatt solar farm near the intersection of state Route 196 and North Road and how the company would address community concerns about the project.

Several of the speakers said they were not necessarily opposed to solar development in the town but wanted to be sure any such project would not degrade the rural character of the town or negatively affect nearby property owners.

“I’m not against this; I’m not for it,” North Road resident James Tucker said. “I just want it done right.

“We want to be protected,” he added.

Tucker, the first resident to speak during the forum, recited a laundry list of questions and concerns, including the effect of the project on the environment, its impact on an existing drainage problem in the area, and how the developers plan to ensure the project infrastructure will be removed at no cost to taxpayers when it reaches the end of its productive life.

Tucker and several others also asked for assurances that the actual construction of the solar field be limited to normal working hours, citing problems with the erection of the existing solar farm on state Route 196 in South Hartford, where the work – and its accompanying noise – often stretched late into the night and took place on holidays.

ActiveSolar President Frank McCleneghen noted that the company has not yet submitted a formal application to the town Planning Board and said there are a number of questions to be resolved before the permit request is filed.

“We’re still in a concept plan phase,” McCleneghen said.

He also assured residents that his company would take their concerns into account if the project moves forward, noting that in response to concerns about how close the solar panels would be to the road and several nearby residential structures, the latest draft plan for the site calls for the panels to be much farther away than had been originally proposed.

Town Supervisor Scott Hahn, who repeated his concerns about solar development in general during the forum, said afterward he was surprised that almost no one who spoke said they were opposed to the project or future similar projects in the town. Town officials are currently gathering information – including from neighboring communities facing similar proposals – that will be the basis for an upgraded town ordinance, giving the municipality greater control over how the development moves ahead and what the developers can – and cannot – do.

In response to some calls that the town adopt a moratorium on solar development — as several other Washington County communities have done — Hahn said he hopes to have the revised law in place within two months.

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