CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. â€” A request to put another large solar project in a rural section of town is once again presenting the community with a choice between acres of solar panels and more housing stock.
Representatives for Active Solar Development LLC made an initial presentation of their project to the Planning Board during a July 14 virtual meeting.
The company is seeking approval to construct a 6.7 Megawatt ground-mounted solar system on an 88-acre parcel on the north side of Hubbs Road near the intersection with Schauber Road.
The projectâ€™s 16,896 solar panels would be installed in the center of the parcel on 22 acres of undeveloped land. In his presentation to the board project representative Ryan Farnum said he expected 15 acres of the project site to have its trees removed. The remaining seven acres are expected to remain natural.
A seven-foot-tall fence will be installed around the mounted solar panels. The fencing will leave room near the ground for small wildlife to traverse the site. Access to the project site will be made from Hubbs Road.
The land is owned by Tony Pappa and zoned Conservation-Residential (CR). In order to move forward the project must receive site plan approval as well as a Special Use Permit from the Planning Board.
This is the sixth privately-developed community solar project to seek approval from the Planning Board in the past two years. Community solar arrays sell the energy they produce to renters and homeowners who cannot or do not want, solar panels on their roofs.
The project submittal has drawn a letter of opposition from nearby residents Ralph and Lydia Savage. Both joined last weekâ€™s meeting and were allowed to comment on the proposal.
Referencing his written remarks during the meeting Ralph Savage labeled the projectÂ â€śa power plantâ€ť, said it was contrary to the townâ€™s Open Space objectives found in the Town Code, will be an â€śan eyesoreâ€ť that effects home values, and presents a public danger.
Savage went on to note that the Town Code states the townâ€™s objective with the CR zone was to protect and enhance the rural character and the natural scenic qualities of open space.
â€śThe Town Code underscores this again,â€ť he said, â€śstating that the community in western Clifton Park values the traditional, open, rural, wooded, agricultural, natural and environmental resources, low-intensity residential and hamlet landscapes, agricultural lands and working landscapes and scenic views and resources.â€ť
In her remarks Lydia Savage said the solar array was a commercial project placed in a residential area. She found it disappointing the applicants would affect so many lives for financial gain. Â
Though not a formal public hearing, board Chairman Rocco Ferraro allowed additional public comments to be made which included those of environmentalist Joanne Coons. Coons supports the use of green energy sources.
â€śThis will produce home-grown energy for us to use right here,â€ť she said. â€śCommunity solar saves you money on your energy bill, gives us energy independence, reduces carbon, is safe and healthy, doesnâ€™t increase our taxes and gives a lot of value to our residents. Weâ€™re investing in our future.â€ťÂ
With a banked knowledge of information from discussions surrounding the other five solar projects, questions arose as to whether the National Grid substation will be able to handle the addition of 6.7 Megawatts of energy. Representatives for the projectâ€™s developer said the costs to upgrade the substation had been included in the companyâ€™s plan.
The project found vocal support from Planning Board member Andy Neubauer who credited the landowner for seeking an alternative to more residential development.
â€śFrom a planning standpoint Iâ€™m typically in favor of adding a solar array in a CR zone instead of an owner caving to a developer coming in and building more homes,â€ť he said. â€śWe want to see the view shed protected though.â€ť
Landowner Tony Pappa said he is searching for a way to make the land productive without selling out to someone who wants to put up a housing subdivision.
â€śI think weâ€™ve kind of planned it so itâ€™s in the back,â€ť he said. â€śI want the land to be like that forever. I do not want it to be developed with homes. Iâ€™ve had lots of people come by; theyâ€™re drawn by the CR zone. They ask if I want to sell and I say, no, no, no.â€ť
Before concluding the discussion Planning Board Chairman Ferraro noted the board is requesting a visual simulation from Schauber Road be done of the proposed project, additional buffering on the east side of the project be included in the plans, and that the applicant satisfy town concerns with the projectâ€™s interior emergency roadway.Â
The project will come before the board again at a later date.