Oswegatchie solar law guidance issued

The town of Oswegatchie used the town of Canton’s solar law as a model, but the county planning board is recommending some edits. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Planning Board discussed and passed along recommendations to the town of Oswegatchie regarding its law on solar installations Thursday night.

The town’s solar law is almost a complete copy of the town of Canton’s solar law which was put into place about a year ago. The county planning board’s notes largely aligned with similar recommendations it made to the Canton law focusing on assessing the impact on agriculture land and giving the town more tools to regulate solar projects.

One of the major problems that planning department staff discovered in the draft Oswegatchie law was repeated references to zoning requirements and items that could only be regulated via zoning. While that works for Canton, Oswegatchie does not have zoning districts, and therefore couldn’t regulate some of those requirements. To overcome this, planning staff and the board suggested Oswegatchie add a single-use zoning district over the entire town that would specifically be for solar, allowing the regulation of specific parts of the solar law.

“The biggest thing is dimensions,” Planning Director Jason Pfotenhauer told the Times. “It’s very difficult to regulate dimensions, really it’s not permissible, to regulate dimensions through a site plan review law, if you’re just looking at an individual site, you don’t have that authority to regulate dimensions through just a site plan review law.”

The planning board also approved the planning staff’s recommendations on adding several paragraphs to Oswegatchie’s law that are also in Canton’s primarily addressing concerns about agriculture land. The first graph would require solar facilities to consolidate infrastructure like roads and fencing as much as possible to avoid using more land than necessary. A second graph would also require an agricultural data statement to be completed for proposed projects to note specifically its impact on potential farm land.

The board also recommended adding a paragraph requiring the owner of a solar array to alert the town if that facility changes owners.

On section contained within Oswegatchie’s law, but not Canton’s, sets requirements for all solar facilities that would qualify for tax exempt status under state law to enter into a “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” agreement with the town.

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