Westerlo sees new solar applicant

WESTERLO — The town of Westerlo has seen its first applicant for a solar array since enacting a solar law in March.

Westerlo’s planning board received an application for an array on property owned by Costanza Solar, LLC — a company based in Long Island — at the Aug. 21 meeting, said Chairwoman Dorothy Verch, who was reporting to the town board at its Tuesday night meeting.

The array would be constructed by Cypress Creek Renewables, a national solar company based in Santa Monica, California, and would encompass about 20 acres out of a 129-acre plot of land off of Route 405, she said. Jamal Nixon, a zoning analyst for Cypress Creek Renewables, said the company’s solar arrays average 10,000 panels over 20 acres.

A public hearing for the application — a special-use permit and site plan — will be held on Sept. 26 in Westerlo. Nixon said he is currently sending notifications of the hearing to residents within 500 feet of the property.

According to Nixon, this array would be one of a dozen to two dozen applications first approved in New York State. Since mid-summer, the company has been working with Westerlo during its application process, such as communicating with the town clerk and building inspector, he said. A year-and-a-half ago, Cypress Creek Renewables had been contacting property owners in the Hilltowns about leasing land for arrays.

Verch described the property as being up a hill and not visible to passersby. An access road, she said, is already present and may only need to be widened.

The location is several hundred feet from the main road — Route 405 — said Nixon, and the company will abide by property setbacks required in Westerlo’s zoning ordinance. He added that the company also plans to use landscaping techniques that will “buffer” the view of the arrays.

“That’s something that we typically address during the zoning process,” he said.

The company will also run glare analysis reports to ensure there is not too much light reflected from the panels into neighbors’ views, he said.

Nixon said the company reviews environmental requirements when choosing a site for a solar array, such as the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, and works with agencies such as the state’s Historic Preservation Office and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The company avoids areas such as wetlands or where deforestation would have to take place.

The application, Verch said, states the company expects to produce 3.6 million kilowatt hours per year, which it intends to sell to Central Hudson Gas & Electric, a utility company that serves the mid-Hudson Valley from the southern end of Albany County to the northern tip of Putnam County. Verch explained that Central Hudson has a three-phase electric power line that travels along Route 405 and even into the Costanza property.

The town had last approved a solar array on private property owned by Stuart Beller in April, but the application was received months before the solar law was enacted. The town law was accepted by New York’s Department of State in May. The solar law, while expediting the process for smaller arrays, has several requirements for larger commercial arrays, such as a need for insurance and an escrow account, as well a maximum acreage allowed for arrays and a minimum distance from a lot line.

The town board, when enacting the law, did not opt out of a 15-year tax exemption for properties containing renewable energy systems. Instead, the town may set up a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, or PILOT, for individual properties.

Verch said part of the process in potentially approving this array would involve setting up a PILOT with Cypress Creek Renewables.

Property at 252 County Route 405 in Westerlo, which is listed under the Costanza Family Trust and is about an acre away from the address of the property in the application, is listed at a full market value of $183,673 and a taxable value of $1,800.

New zoning board member

Also on Tuesday, the town board appointed Rita Perciballi to complete a term left vacant on the town’s zoning board of appeals. The seat was occupied by Wilferd Van Iderstine, who resigned on July 1.

The board adjourned to a very brief executive session to discuss Perciballi’s appointment. Following executive session, it was noted that she was the only applicant for the position.

Franchise agreement moves forward

Verch, who is also the chairwoman of the town’s Broadband Research Committee, told The Enterprise that the Westerlo’s franchise agreement with the internet and cable provider, Mid-Hudson Cable, had been accepted by the company on Wednesday. Verch had updated the town board on the agreement at the meeting on Tuesday, which had to be changed to divide residents’ homes into census tracts.

A public hearing should be scheduled by November, with the town board voting on the agreement after.

Summer rec program praised

At the town board meeting, the summer recreation program was praised in both written and spoken form. The program was held in early August at the Westerlo town park and was open to children entering first to sixth grades.

The program was reintroduced years after it was last hosted by the town when Albany County Legislator Chris Smith secured a grant. Councilman Joseph Boone headed the program, and received thanks from letters that were read at the meeting as well as from those speaking during the public comment period.

Library grants reviewed

The board heard a report from Laura Tenney, president of the Westerlo Public Library Board of Trustees, on State Education Department grants that have funded several construction projects, including new windows, a patio, new sidewalks and a paint job.
In January, grant-funded improvements began to change the former museum-section of the library into a multi-purpose room. The grants matched 75 percent of funding if the library provided 25 percent. The library raised $25,000, with about $2,500 coming from town funds; the state provided $75,000 through the grant.



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