Public to have say on OYA solar project tax deal

Watertown Daily Times

FISHERS LANDING — The general public will soon have the chance to comment on a proposed tax deal for a Toronto developer’s community solar project near Route 12 in the towns of Orleans and Clayton.

The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency will schedule a public hearing for the tentative payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for OYA Solar Inc. The deal would provide property tax abatement so OYA can erect its 20-megawatt project, which would include four arrays, each one 5 megawatts, with a combined 88,000 panels spanning five properties between Robinson Road and Blanchard Road.

The agency’s board of directors passed resolutions Thursday needed to hold the public hearing, but the date and time had yet to be determined. Donal C. Alexander, CEO of the JCIDA’s sister agency, the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. said he believed it would be held somewhere in Orleans, possibly the town office in LaFargeville. The town houses the majority of the project components.

The specifics of the prospective PILOT agreement must still be finalized, but Mr. Alexander said it should practically follow to the agency’s uniform tax exemption policy. The policy dictates that “total abatement provided shall not exceed a 50 percent abatement over a 15 year period,” for a standard PILOT agreement.

“The discussions we’ve had with the IDA have been very productive, and I would say the deal in its current form ... is something we’ll be able to make work,” said Greg Rossetti, a principal of OYA.

The draft PILOT agreement involves five taxing jurisdictions: the county, towns of Clayton and Orleans and the Thousand Islands and LaFargeville central school districts.

Orleans has no town property tax, but rather a special district tax for highway department expenditures, which the JCIDA cannot abate. Mr. Rossetti said his firm will pay 100 percent of the special district taxes in Orleans and Clayton in separate payments.

Only the county, town of Clayton and two school districts will receive payments from the PILOT because they have abatable taxes, but Mr. Alexander said if Orleans decides to adopt a town property tax sometime in the next 15 years, it will be reduced and the town will receive PILOT payments on a pro rata (proportional) basis.

“They are what they are. We’ll see how it all shakes out at the public hearing,” said Orleans Town Supervisor Kevin C. Rarick.

OYA has established an agreement with NextEra Energy Inc., Juno Beach, Fla., for it to eventually take ownership of the arrays. Selling projects to investors like NextEra is essential to OYA’s business model.

The developer plans to build a fifth 5-megawatt array off Robinson Road separate from its other 20-megawatt project. Mr. Rossetti said OYA, however, plans to maintain ownership of its latest array.

If the PILOT agreement is approved, it could be the first one established for a renewable energy project in Jefferson County.

Apex Clean Energy sought a PILOT agreement for its Galloo Island Wind project in the town of Hounsfield, but negotiations ceased after the developer withdrew its application for the state Article 10 review. Norbut Solar Farms had entered negotiations with the agency for a possible PILOT agreement for its 25-megawatt community solar project in Chaumont. Mr. Alexander said he has not recently spoken with CEO David Norbut, but has met with village, town of Lyme and Lyme Central School District officials this week to discuss the project, possible deal and any concerns they may have.

Solar development, both for commercial and community solar projects, occupied much of the discussion between the JCIDA’s board of directors Thursday. Agency officials plan to meet with two large scale solar developers, Boralex Inc., Kingsey Falls, Quebec, and EDF Renewables, San Diego, interested in negotiating tax deals for their Jefferson County projects, Mr. Alexander said.

EDF Renewables wants to install about 425,000 solar panels across 800 acres south of LaFargeville for its 119-megawatt Tracy Solar Energy Center. Boralex plans to build its 120-megawatt Greens Corners Solar on up to 2,031 acres southeast of the Watertown International Airport.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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