Dunnsville Road solar proposal retooled 

— From Helios Energy submittal package on file with the town of Guilderland

Originally, a five-megawatt solar array was proposed for a 61-acre field at 6604 Dunnsville Road, owned by Joseph Muia, beside Orchard Creek, the golf course owned by the Abbruzzese family. The project is now proposed for 6580 Dunnsville Road, an Abbruzzese-owned property adjacent to Muia’s. 

GUILDERLAND — The proposal for a large solar array that inspired a new county regulation to protect the Helderberg viewshed has evolved since its inception.

Originally, the five-megawatt solar array was proposed for a 61-acre field at 6604 Dunnsville Road, owned by Joseph Muia, beside Orchard Creek, the golf course owned by the Abbruzzese family. The project was first proposed to the Guilderland Planning Board in June 2019.

The project is now proposed for 6580 Dunnsville Road, an Abbruzzese-owned property adjacent to Muia’s. 

An organized public outcry led the town to make additions to its original solar law, and eventually the two sides came to an agreement on the project, which was presented to the planning board at its Feb. 10 meeting.

The original proposal inspired recently-adopted county legislation, which says the Albany County Planning Board must now consider the Helderberg escarpment viewshed when making project recommendations to local planning and zoning boards.

In February of last year, the owners of Orchard Creek proposed a land swap with Muia to shield their customers as well as residents of Dunnsville Road from what would have been at the time the largest solar array in Guilderland, which is no longer the case.

The Abbruzzeses own the property on either side of Muia, and what was proposed at the time was for the Abbruzzese family to swap the nearly 57 acres of land it owns at 6580 Dunnsville Road and, in return, the Abbruzzeses would receive the sloping field that Muia owns, which is visible from Orchard Creek’s wedding and events venue.

In an April 2020 letter to the Enterprise editor, Donna Abbruzzese, whose husband, John, along with his brothers, own Orchard Creek, informed readers that the “efforts to relocate [the] solar array have been successful.”

The letter stated, “There will be deed restrictions on the property fronting Dunnsville Road to prevent commercial development and preserve the Helderberg viewshed.”

Altamont Orchards in July 2020 “entered into an Agreement for Purchase and Sale of Real Estate with” Muia, “setting forth terms and conditions for the purchase and sale of real property located at 6580 Dunnsville Road.”

This included “the condition that a restrictive covenant is to be placed on real property owned by JOSEPH MUIA and located at 6604 Dunnsville Road,” according to the deed on file in the Albany County Clerk’s Office.

No money appears to have changed hands; the consideration listed by the county clerk is $0.

The new special-use permit application for the project lists Altamont Orchards Realty as the property owner, but in a letter to the zoning board supporting the project, Muia wrote, “I am also the contingent owner of the solar site at 6580 Dunnsville Road.”

Proposals for town projects that are within 1,200 feet of the village boundary or within 1,200 feet of Altamont’s current or future water system must be referred to the village for a recommendation. It would take a supermajority vote — a majority plus one — of the Guilderland Planning Board to overturn Altamont’s recommendation.

The Altamont-Guilderland Referral Committee in June of last year had recommended that the initial application for a 120-foot side-setback variance be disapproved

During an October 2020 Guilderland zoning board meeting, a lawyer for Helios Energy, the project developer, told the board that the company was pulling its request for a side-setback variance. Rather than pursue a variance, the lawyer said, the plan now is for a lot-line adjustment, “which would essentially achieve the same desired effect from granting the variance.”  

Jaqueline Coons, Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector, said during the October 2020 meeting that, if the applicant were withdrawing the variance application, the project “should be able to move forward to the planning board for site-plan review …”

The new project will be going back to the referral committee, Altamont Mayor Kerry Dineen previously confirmed for The Enterprise.

 

More Guilderland News

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