Dunnsville Road solar project okayed by Altamont

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

 Proposals for Guilderland town projects within 1,200 feet of the village of Altamont boundary or within 1,200 feet of Altamont’s current or future water system must be referred to the village’s rural referral committee for a recommendation.

ALTAMONT — On June 1, village trustees unanimously backed the recommendation of the Altamont-Guilderland Rural Referral Committee that the once controversial Dunnsville Road solar project should be approved by the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Had the referral committee said the proposal should be disapproved, it would have taken a supermajority vote — four out of five Guilderland zoning board members — to overturn Altamont’s recommendation.

 Proposals for town projects 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. 

Altamont’s mayor who chairs the referral committee, Kerry Dineen, said the project had changed and was sent back to the committee for a referral, “so we heard the whole project again.”

Also on the committee are Deb Hext, the chairwoman of Altamont’s planning board; John Scally, a village trustee; Danny Ramirez, the chairman of the zoning board; Lance Moore, the village’s building and zoning administrator; Superintendent of Public Works Jeffrey Moller; and Leanne Royer, the resident representative. 

The referral committee in June of last year had recommended that the initial application for a 120-foot side-setback variance be disapproved. 

But during an October 2020 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 the variance, the lawyer said, the plan now was for a lot-line adjustment, “which would essentially achieve the same desired effect from granting the variance.”  

The referral committee in its May 17 recommendation said the solar array’s special-use permit should be granted but advised that the Guilderland zoning board should have both a visual-impact study and glare analysis performed.

In addition, the State Environmental Quality Review Act “indicates pesticides will be used. With the project's proximity to the Bozenkill, more information is needed to explain how Helios will prevent any possibility of pesticides making their way into the Bozenkill,” the referral committee wrote. 

 The proposed five-megawatt solar array for Dunnsville Road — which initially led to an organized public outcry, inspiring not one but two laws — is now quietly progressing through the approval process.

The project was on the Guilderland zoning board’s Wednesday agenda, but as of Friday at 4:30 p.m., the recording had yet to be posted on the town’s website. 

In 2019, Helios originally proposed installing the solar array on a sloping 61-acre field at 6604 Dunnsville Road, owned by Joseph Muia, overlooking Orchard Creek, the golf course owned by the Abbruzzese family.

But the organized objection to the proposal led the town to make additions to its original solar law, and eventually the two sides came to an agreement on the project. The array is now proposed for 6580 Dunnsville Road, a nearly 57-acre Abbruzzese-owned property adjacent to Muia’s, property which Muia is slated to take ownership of.

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