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Proposed solar array project fails to impress Moreau Planning Board; Public hearing set for April 19

Proposed solar array project fails to impress Moreau Planning Board; Public hearing set for April 19

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MOREAU — The town Planning Board got its first look at 74 acres of proposed solar panels Monday, and it didn’t like it.

The board set a public hearing for April 19. The hearing will likely be held via Zoom, with an option for people to call in if they prefer.

Developer U.S. Light Energy has proposed two 5-megawatt solar arrays on one parcel, at 65 Reynolds Road, which is the former Tee Bird South Golf Course. It is zoned residential.

Solar arrays are not permitted in that zone, but they can be placed in a Planned Unit Development, so the developers have proposed that.

But Planning Board members said the project didn’t meet the definition of a Planned Unit Development, which is designed for multi-use projects.

Town Zoning Coordinator Jim Martin also criticized the project.

“PUDs are supposed to be vibrant, dynamic integration of land uses,” he said. “I think it is very plain that this is a single use.”

Town Attorney Karla Buettner also questioned the legal basis of the project, saying the owner had to meet the definition of a Planned Unit Development.

The definition “is the mixed use of the owner of the property, and the owner is not the town. It sounds more like a partnership with the town. That’s where I am, to use your term, a little hung up as to whether it meets the requirement of multiple uses,” she said. “But that said, the Planning Board’s job is to review what is before them.”

Planning Board members said the proposal was clearly only for solar panels and that it would be “dead on arrival” if the Town Board chose not to accept a gift of land for recreational uses. The developer has proposed giving the town about 92 acres for a park, on the grounds that recreation would be the second use on the property and thus meet the PUD requirement for multiple uses.

Town Supervisor Todd Kusnierz, contacted after the meeting, declined to comment on whether the town would accept the land and build recreational amenities there. The town has struggled to complete the first phase of an accessible playground project at the town’s Rec Park, and recently negotiated to buy more land adjacent to that park with the money from selling the former Town Hall.

The town is also considering allowing sand mining at the Rec Park to raise money for more amenities there, and is working on a trail by the river. The trail has such a severely limited budget that the work is mainly being performed by BOCES students who are learning how to use heavy equipment.

Kusnierz said it would “inappropriate” for him to comment on the recreation proposal until after the Planning Board makes a decision on the project.

Although Planning Board members seemed to clearly think the project was not a Planned Unit Development, they won’t make the final decision in this case. The Town Board decides on all Planned Unit Developments. The Planning Board will give the Town Board a recommendation within 60 days of the public hearing, and then the Town Board will hold its own public hearing before voting.

But it was clear which way the town’s zoning coordinator would go, if he had a vote, which he does not.

“I’ve got grave concerns,” he said at Monday’s meeting. “I think this really needs to be carefully considered before we go down this path.”

You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

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Related to this story

A solar developer from Boston wants to buy three parcels in the Moreau Industrial Park to set up 13 acres of solar panels. If Baker Falls Solar LLC gets approval for the array, it will become the second business in the nearly-empty park.

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