Westerlo reviews three solar projects in one night

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
A draft of a tax map shows how property at the former Shepard Farm resort in Westerlo will be subdivided into three portions to potentially allow two new solar arrays to be built.

WESTERLO — The planning board meeting in Westerlo had its sole focus on solar on Tuesday night. Three different companies presented plans for arrays before the board, including a community project as well as proposed arrays on property surrounding the former Shepard Farm resort.

Shepard Farm seeks subdivision and solar

The planning board held a public hearing for the subdivision of property owned by Shepard Farm LLC, a company formed when the former Westerlo resort Shepard Farm was bought by Rensselaerville town councilman and Westerlo business owner John Dolce and his business partner Steve Haaland.

While the subdivision application was considered separately from the company’s intent to put up solar arrays on the property, dividing the property is necessary for operating the two proposed arrays, as Westerlo’s solar law, which was enacted in March, only allows an array to cover a maximum of 20 acres on a parcel of land.

The applicants initially proposed dividing the 190-acres of land into seven parcels but eventually conceded to three plots of land: one 45-acre lot on the west side of the property for an array, one 45-acre lot on the east side for an array, and the remaining land containing the former hotel and other resort and farm buildings, said David Albrecht of the solar company Borrego, which intends to build the arrays at Shepard Farm.

Planning board Chairwoman Dorothy Verch described taking two different tours of the property to observe the lands that would be subdivided, as well as viewing the historic buildings that include a movie theater and game room. Verch said that Dolce may seek a historic building grant for renovations.

Albrecht said the new tax map would be filed with the county, but the new parcels — which Shepard Farm would be leasing to Borrego rather than selling — would not need to have new deeds filed with the county.

Planning board member Edwin Stevens objected to the subdivision, saying that he had not heard of property being subdivided and not receiving new deeds. He also said he was concerned that property subdivided off could be abandoned and left to the town to deal with.

Stevens asked that the subdivision be approved on the conditions that new deeds and tax identification numbers be created for the three newly created land parcels, and that the property not have any further subdivisions in the next 10 years. Both Stevens’s fellow planning board members and Albrecht objected to the 10-year moratorium, saying there are parcels that could later be used for the arrays or other business ventures.

Planning board member Gerald Boone said that he liked the idea of issuing three new tax identification numbers and deeds, and Albrecht said that this would not affect Borrego or Shepard Farm.

The board voted, 4 to 1, in favor of the subdivision, with Stevens being the only member objecting.

Later that evening, the board reviewed an application from Shepard Farm and Borrego for the installation of the two solar arrays.

A total of 17,496 panels will be used. On the west side, the 6,998-kilowatt array will be located on the 46-acre parcel, and will have 25.1 acres fenced in. On the east side, the 2998-kilowatt array will be located on the 45.4-acre parcel, and will have 24.46 acres fenced in.

The fence will be six feet high and have barbed wire on top. The power is expected to go to Central Hudson Gas & Electric.

Mike Doud, a project developer at Borrego, said that the goal is to make the visibility of the arrays minimal from the roads and surrounding residences. The southeast corner of the property was determined to be the only spot where the arrays would be visible.

Albrecht said that an existing golf-cart path from the era when the resort was open will be widened. There will also be two areas for transformers, and data acquisition gear to monitor them. These will be on platforms of 300 square feet of concrete, the only impermeable surface to be constructed. He also said there would be little grading or earthwork, except for some for the access road.

The board agreed to accept the application, and will hold a public hearing at the next planning board meeting, on Dec. 20.

Concerns with Cypress Creek

The board continued a public hearing for a proposed array from Costanza Solar LLC in conjunction with the solar company Cypress Creek that had been tabled at the last two hearings due to a lack of information.

Verch told The Enterprise following the October meeting that the planning board still needed information on stormwater runoff on the access road, a report from Cypress Creek on the amount of visible glare from the arrays, and an approval from the Westerlo Fire Company.

Verch said that the glare analysis had been received from Cypress Creek, and that it showed no glare. Some letters meant to notify neighbors of the proposed array had been “returned to sender,” and the board still needs a road evaluation from the fire company, she said.

Representatives from neither Cypress Creek nor Costanza Solar were present for the hearing, but a neighbor of the proposed array was represented by attorney Brian Henchey. Henchey said that there are concerns not only that the neighbor — who lives on Strawberry Lane, parallel to the array’s location — would be able to see the property, but also that an access road and utility lines would have to cut across his property. Henchey said that his client is trying to work out an alternative entrance for the company, but has so far not come to an answer.

The board agreed to table the hearing again, and reopen it at the December meeting.

Verch said that she was told that, should the application be approved in December, construction would begin in March of next year and be completed by March 2019. She said, if there is another month of inactivity, the application would have to be started anew.

Community solar

The board also reviewed a presentation by the company Clean Energy Collective. Although the company has not yet submitted a formal application, it is proposing to build a 2-megawatt solar array on eight acres of a 46.5-acre parcel along Route 351 near the border of Rensselaerville.

The array would feed electricity to a utility company but, rather than selling the energy, the company would instead offer participants in a community solar project to have their utility bills lowered based on the energy generated.

Joseph Shanahan, co-owner of the company, said that it will submit an application in the next 30 days, if not by Dec. 20.


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