RENSSELAERVILLE — This rural Helderberg Hilltown has drafted its first solar bill. The committee that drafted the legislation is seeking comment on the 17-page document and is inviting the public to do so on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
“Back in 2018, we formed a committee,” Deputy Supervisor Jason Rauf told The Enterprise on Thursday night, after the town board’s monthly meeting.
Rauf was filling in for Supervisor John Dolce. Both Dolce and Rauf were on the solar committee along with town assessors and community members, Rauf said.
Rensselaerville did not adopt a solar moratorium, Rauf said, and there are currently no large-scale solar projects either proposed or built in town.
“These are general regulations for large- and small-scale solar,” said Rauf. “It’s not in favor or opposed. It’s just basic regulations.” Rauf said at Thursday’s meeting, “The committee can take suggestions and revise as needed.”
In July, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in New York State.
Solar developers frequently seek rural areas for large-scale arrays.
Since the neighboring Hilltown of Westerlo enacted a law in 2017 that updated its zoning ordinance to include regulations on residential and commercial solar arrays, the town’s planning board has approved five commercial arrays owned by three different companies.
In August, Westerlo adopted a moratorium on further large-scale solar arrays.
The draft states that the bill is written in accordance with the town’s comprehensive plan and is meant to protect public health, safety, and welfare.
Solar systems installed prior to the law need not meet its requirements, but adding more than 5 percent to a solar system would be subject to the new law once it is adopted.
Building permits will be required for installing any solar system.
For small-scale systems, the town will use the New York State Unified Solar Permit. Roof-mounted systems are allowed to face any rear, side, or front yard area.
On a sloped roof, panels can’t be higher than the roof’s peak. On a flat roof, panels can’t extend above the top of the surrounding parapet or more than 24 inches above the flat surface of the roof, whichever is higher.
Panels have to be set back three feet from the edge and three feet from the peak of a roof to allow for fire access and ventilation.
Ground-mounted systems in residential districts can be installed only in side or rear yards and must reasonably avoid or minimize blockage of views from surrounding properties and shading of property to the north.
For large-scale solar systems, all mechanical equipment must be enclosed with a fence at least 8 feet tall with at least 2 feet of barbed wire.
Systems fewer than 10 acres are to have views “minimized from adjacent properties to the extent reasonably practicable using architectural features, earth berms, landscaping, or other screening methods that will harmonize with the character of the property and surrounding area.”
Systems larger than 10 acres will have to assess visual impacts on public roads and adjacent properties as well as submitting screening and landscaping plans.
As with residential panels, large systems must have anti-reflective coating on panels. Arrays are to be arranged so that glare is not directed on adjacent buildings, properties, or roads.
All on-site utility lines are to be underground to the extent feasible.
Large-scale systems on designated Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide Importance can’t exceed half the area.
If storage batteries are included, they must meet fire-prevention requirements and, when no longer used, must be disposed of according to town, county, state, and federal regulations.
Solar systems that have not produced electricity for one year are to be removed at the owner’s expense. Large-scale systems must have a decommissioning plan and a bond or security left with the town totalling 125-percent of the cost of removal.
Meanwhile, at Thursday’s meeting, the town board discussed a proposition from Nexamp, offering to provide power to the town for 10-percent less than Central Hudson.
“They approached us. It’s all about the money,” Rauf told The Enterprise after Thursday’s meeting. “Tom was concerned we were boxing ourselves in,” he said, referring to the town’s attorney, Thomas Fallati.
“A safer way to proceed is do a request for proposals,” Fallati told the board.
The proposal was for a 25-year term agreement with the ability for either side to terminate with a 90-day notice.
The board agreed to proceed with an RFP, which Fallati will draft for the next meeting.
The town board adopted its second local law of the year, on which there were no public comments, amending the town’s fee schedule to reflect increasing costs.
Subdivision application fees, for example, are now $150 for a minor subdivision, and $150 for each lot proposed on the preliminary plot of a major subdivision. Special permit fees are also $150.
Area variance for both residential and commercial uses are $50. So are zoning permits.
It costs $3 to recycle a car tire and $5 for a truck tire.
At the clerk’s office, it costs 25 cents to photocopy a single page of 9-by-14 inches or smaller. Duplicate birth certificates and marriage licenses cost $10. Original marriage licenses cost $40, and death certificates cost $10.
Licensing a dog costs $8 if the dog is spayed or neutered, $15 if not. The cost for reclaiming a stray dog is $10 and double that on second offense, plus $25 for each date of impoundment;
In other business, the board:
— Announced that Edwin Lawson is resigning as the town’s code-enforcement officer, effective Sept. 30. “That’s a loss to the town,” said Rauf.
Lawson had long held a similar post in Westerlo and left to take the job in Rensselaerville this year.
The town is advertising to fill the post;
— Heard from Dolce’s report that the town paid $847 to repair the town’s senior car. Rauf told The Enterprise that the damage was minor when a deer hit the grill.
Also, Dolce reported that he was getting quotes on security cameras. Rauf told The Enterprise that the state comptroller’s office had recommended increasing coverage; cameras are now at the town hall and highway garage;
— Heard in the highway superintendent’s report that shoulders have been completed on Cheese Hill Road, and ditching will resume after next week;
— Learned from Rauf that Rensselaerville’s supervisor, Dolce, and its highway superintendent, Randall Bates, had met with the Broome supervisor and Assemblyman Chris Tague to discuss how to move forward with repairs to Gordon Road.
“The town didn’t want to fund repairs on a state road,” said Rauf. It was agreed that the state will provide funding, he said, while “Broome does its portion and Rensselaerville does its portion.”
He also said, “The road would have to be brought up to town specs,” and that the agreement wasn’t finalized;
— Heard a report from Town Clerk Victoria Kraker on what was collected in the last month, including money for sewer fees totalling roughly $3,770 and for water, roughly $4,619, as well as fees for dog licenses, sporting licences — and one marriage license, for $22.50;
— Heard that Lawson reported in the last month there were two permits for new home construction and one for an accessory building;
— Heard from Kimberly Graff Zimmer, the Rensselaerville librarian, that the library would be hosting a celebration on Halloween with the Rensselaerville Volunteer Fire Company that will include a parade and a soda-and-pizza party at Conkling Hall.
Zimmer also said the library is continuing its conversations on “what it is to be an American” and that her goal is to identify common issues or concerns in the community to “create an action list we can work toward.” One question she says she often hears is: How can we age in place?
Zimmer said the library would like to work with the town board to make Rensselaerville “a better place to be”;
— Chose the Overhead Door Company, among three candidates, to repair the door at the town’s recycling center for $4,161. Rauf said it was “the best value for the quote”. The next lowest bid was for $4,050.
“It was worth paying the extra money because it was extra work,” said Councilman Brian Wood;
— Heard that Rensselaerville’s preliminary budget will be presented on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at the town hall and that budget workshops will be held on Oct. 3, 16, 17, 22, and 23;
— Agreed that the highway superintendent can bid on tools for highway maintenance up to $10,000 without prior town-board approval; and
— Reappointed Brad Chase to a five-year term on the Rensselaerville Board of Assessment Review; his term runs from Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2024.