Great Valley board discusses future solar law for town

GREAT VALLEY — As solar companies continue to approach the town of Great Valley about the possibility of installing commercial farms in the area, the town board is doing everything it can to get a plan in place first.

During its regular meeting Monday, the Great Valley Town Board held a public hearing on passing a moratorium to keep companies at bay until the town has the legal language in place to properly allow farms to be built, if at all.

Although no one from any solar companies was in attendance for the hearing, town officials discussed at length the reasoning for needing something in place to guide the town’s actions if a large farm were to be built in the town.

“What NYSERDA encourages us to say is we still have a law that prohibits large scale solar farms,” said town attorney Peter Sorgi. “However, if the state wants to preempt our local law, which they have the right to do, this is where we want to see it go, or more appropriately, where we don’t want to see it go.”

A major factor in the possibility of allowing large solar farms in the town is the locations, which the town board wants to make sure is not on land for agricultural or building development use.

“If a proposal comes in and they want to put it here, we say we already considered this and this is where we want it to go and why,” Sorgi said.

Town Supervisor Dan Brown said the town has been approached by four or five different companies in as many months. He said the northern end of the town near the substation has been getting a lot of pressure as an ideal spot to install a farm.

“Another issue is capacity. It can only take so much,” said Chris Schena town planning and zoning board chair. “If we agree to it and dump everything in the north end of town, that doesn’t mean it has the capacity.”

The town’s original local law for solar farms was passed about 13 years ago when the future of solar energy was first being talked about, Brown said. That law only allowed individual residential use, not commercial farms. But now, they have to address the commercial.

“Ninety-nine percent of these structures are recyclable. When we asked about the 1 percent, that’s the bad stuff inside the cells that goes to the landfills. That’s a problem,” Brown said. “Another item that was brought up is who pays for the decommission of these things in 15 or 20 years when they become obsolete, or possibly sooner as technology advances.”

Sorgi said any local law that is passed would include all the legal language to make sure any costs for cleanup would be paid by the company, as well as having a PILOT program in place.

The town will continue to discuss and formulate the local law in the coming months.

THE TOWN BOARD also held several other public hearings during Monday’s meeting, including for the proposed multi-use recreation and basketball court at the end of the town’s pole building near the baseball field.

“It’s not only for children but also for seniors who want to talk advantage of it from over at Green Valley,” Brown said. “We spoke to John Northrup regarding a paved pathway that we would maintain and pay for to allow people to access it without going out onto Route 219.”

Brown announced that the local Eddy family would donate the funds needed to install the blacktop in for the area. He said the town board has also put $7,000 aside in the 2020 budget for the project.

During an electrical update in the pole building, Brown said the board would put in the electric needed to install security cameras for the court.

“Lighting can also be added in at a later date when we’re ready to do that,” he added.

The board also held a public hearing on the new senior citizen tax exemption law similar to what was recently passed by Cattaraugus County. The town board passed the resolution later in the meeting.

A public hearing was also held concerning the renewal of a contract with Time Warner Cable, also known as Charter Communications, for cable in the Snow Pine Village area. The town board also passed that resolution later in the meeting.

The board held the meeting in memory of the late Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. Brown said the town and Seneca Nation share a large portion of land in the southern half of Great Valley near Kill Buck. The board also unanimously approved making a donation for $1,000 to diabetes research in Snyder’s memory.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)