Canton adopts law to regulate solar projects

CANTON — A new local law that regulates large-scale solar projects was adopted Wednesday by the Canton Town Board, a move that was prompted by some landowners in the town being approached by solar power developers.

Town Councilman Philip LaMarche said he abstained from the vote because he’s been approached by a solar company interested in property he owns.

Tax records show that Mr. LaMarche owns a 209-acre parcel on Jingleville Road.

The 11-page law also mandates that town officials negotiate with solar companies in order to receive a community benefit for the project such as a payment in lieu of taxes or low-cost power allotment.

“It’s important to note that as these potential large scale producers come to the area the town is going to be vigorously involved in the process,” said Dan Ramsey, an attorney for the town. “Ultimately, what happens is the companies and the municipalities enter into host agreements where the community benefit is specifically negotiated, it’s well thought out. Ultimately, it reflects the best interest of the players at the table. That’s the landowners, that’s the municipality itself.”

The law will take effect once it’s filed with the state Department of State.

Now that the law has passed, Deputy Town Supervisor Robert Washo said a subcommittee should be created that would be involved with negotiating with solar companies seeking to come into the town.

Town officials were prompted to create a solar law last year when companies that were interested in developing projects approached some land owners.

To halt development until a law was on the books, the town board passed moratoriums that temporarily prevented new solar projects. The existing moratorium expires Sept. 30.

The law requires developers to submit a site plan to the town’s Planning Board, which must issue a special use permit in order for the project to move forward.

It also prohibits the removal of prime agricultural soil from the parcel.

According to the law, 20 feet is the maximum height for free-standing solar panels from the ground or from a ground framework.

The minimum setback from the property line is 25 feet, while at least 200 feet is required between residential neighbors.

The law also requires that all on-site utility and transmission lines be built underground. The solar collectors have to be designed to minimize reflective glare to inhabited buildings on neighboring property.

All mechanical equipment, including any structures for batteries or storage cells, have to be enclosed by a fence, a minimum of 6 feet high.

The law also requires that a sign not exceeding 12 feet be displayed on or near the main access point that lists the facility’s name, owner and phone number.

The law also requires companies to obtain a decommissioning bond to make sure they have funds available to cover the cost of removing the solar project once it’s no longer operating. The operator would be required to complete its decommissioning plan within 180 days of being notified by the town.

On Tuesday, the Potsdam Town Board adopted a local law regulating solar photovoltaic systems.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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