Parish town board will vote on whether to let Spectrum in and, for the time being, keep solar farms out

PARISH — Solar panels and cable television, two of the main topics expected to be addressed by the town council at its Thursday meeting, both have the potential to improve life in Parish. But, while one carries considerable financial and environmental risk, the other just carries more channels than anyone could ever watch.

The board has addressed solar panel concerns in the past and issued a moratorium on large-scale installations of solar farms last year. That moratorium has expired, and the board will vote on whether to extend it until a newly-crafted zoning law, now in the works, is completed and approved, codifying the moratorium into local law.

The moratorium does not pertain to homeowners looking to install solar panels on their roofs. It pertains solely to large solar farms that have left other municipalities in the state holding the bag for the costly disposal of solar panels that have come to the end of their useful lives, no longer generate electricity, and are considered as hazardous waste. This moratorium intends to prevent that from happening to Parish.

According to both Town Supervisor Mary Ann Phillips and Town Planning Board Chairman Paul Gage, provisions of the moratorium and the future zoning law ensure that any company that installs a solar farm is responsible for its maintenance and replacement and/or disposal of dead solar panels.

The average life of a solar panel is presently 20 years. Gage explained the new zoning law will require companies obtain a bond sufficient to cover the cost of disposal in the event they are out of business by the time disposal is required.

“The whole theory behind this is to protect the town, because anytime you’re dealing with hazardous waste, it gets very expensive,” Gage said.

The moratorium, he said, is based on established state law that is in effect elsewhere and also takes into account pertinent state mandates.

“You can sometimes make things more stringent, but you can never relax anything,” Gage said.

At the present time, there are no solar farms in Parish, but the Planning Board, upon hearing of serious, costly problems in western New York, felt they should look at their own laws regarding solar panels and farms. After all, said Gage, that’s what Planning Boards do. They plan. And so, upon considering the state of Parish’s solar farm regulations, the Planning Board felt a moratorium was in order until a new zoning law is approved and in effect. Gage expects that could take another three months or so, given the numerous reviews the proposed law must go through.

“It has to go to the town attorney, it has to go to county planning, it has to come back for a public hearing, the town board has to vote on it, and finally it has to go to Albany and be filed as Parish’s zoning law,” Gage said.

Mary Ann Phillips summed it all up this way: “What happens after 20 years?,” she asked. “The companies don’t want to address that. They want to just come in and do it, and then when it dies, it’s up to the town and/or village to get rid of this hazardous waste. So, that’s the reason for the moratorium. When the solar panels aren’t any good anymore, who takes care of what? Do they just take it down and put in a new one? And what happens to the old one? We want to make sure the town or village isn’t stuck with this stuff that all of a sudden is ours to deal with. The moratorium will be part of the new zoning law. But until the new zoning law is passed, the moratorium will hold us over.”

The cable television issue is a lot less complicated and only involves the town board. The Planning Board does not deal with such issues.

Cable television in Parish is like good water in Parish. Some people have it, and some people don’t. Time Warner used to operate in Parish and wouldn’t run cable down a road if too few people lived on it. Now, Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications, wants to come into Parish and change that disparity. If given the right to do so, Spectrum will pay the town a franchise fee. According to Phillips, that fee will be in line with fees paid to other towns of a similar size.

Presently, residents of Parish get cable television through New Visions. Whether that will continue once Spectrum enters the picture, remains to be seen.

Public hearings, as required, were held on both issues of solar panels and Spectrum cable television Sept. 10. No one from the public offered any comments on either issue.

According to Phillips, the years-long Parish water project will also be discussed at the board’s Sept. 17 meeting, which will be teleconferenced via Zoom starting at 6:30 p.m.

Members of the public may listen to or view this town board meeting by going to the web site:

If you do not have Zoom installed on your computer, you may be required to install it. It is free and can be downloaded from the web page above.

The meeting ID is 837 3389 1312. There is no password.

The public may also dial in to listen to the meeting at 929.205.6099.

The meeting ID is 837 3389 1312.

Please note, this is a long-distance phone call, and charges may apply, depending on your phone plan.

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