RHINEBECK, N.Y. — The Town Board’s efforts to add screening requirements for solar arrays are being met with some skepticism by residents who are questioning closed-door discussions.

At a  meeting Monday, June 10, board members acknowledged having closed-foor meetings with Town Attorney Warren Replansky to work out ways that commercial solar arrays can be hidden from view.

“We’ll go through a local adoption process like we go through everything,” town Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia said. “There’ll be plenty of notice and there’ll be plenty of public hearing. The board does not want me to discuss what we talked about in attorney-client (sessions).”

Spinzia noted that town planner James Levy was in the closed session to discuss recommendations to the board.

“I would say that you’ll see a draft by July,” she said.

Spinzia had wanted to say what was requested in the draft law, but was shut down by Councilman Chauncey Walker, who did not want specific details released.

“I think it would be a big mistake,” Walker said. “It’s too easy for them to be misunderstanding as the result of something like that.”

Robert Freeman, executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, said Tuesday that the board could meet privately with the town attorney if the discussions were directly with the lawyer and conversations were not conducted among board members.

Several people attended the board meeting specifically because the issue was on the  agenda, and they questioned why recommendations were being discussed behind closed doors when the proposal had already been made public.

“This issue about screening has been going on for over a year,” said Robert Donaldson. “We came tonight to hear what the Zoning Review Committee submitted to the board. We were prepared to hear you speak about it and possibly offer some of the concerns that we have.  … We like the recommendations, if that’s what is being submitted.”

Under Levy’s recommendations, amendments to the law would include a requirement that rooftop solar arrays be “obscured from view of adjacent properties and roadways.”

Criticism of the town’s development of solar laws has been ongoing for two years. Several residents filed and lost a lawsuit over adoption of regulations they contend were specifically  to benefit town Highway Superintendent Barry Sherrod by allowing a commercial solar array on his property on Wurtemburg Road.

The court ruling against the lawsuit, which noted that regulations were drafted by a task force that included Sherrod’s sister and the developer building the array, is currently being appealed.


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