For possibly one year, the Town of Covert has passed a moratorium on solar energy facilities, wind energy facilities, and cellular communications towers. The Town Board passed the moratorium at the Aug. 14 meeting, but after comments from the public made changes to a part of the law that covered these projects built by locals on their private land.
Public comment of the proposed law included questions about why the moratorium was made for one year, with some resident concern that this issue can and should be figured out in a shorter amount of time.
“It seems unnecessary to take a whole year. A variety of other towns have done this or undertaken it, you’re not reinventing the wheel,” said one resident during the public hearing portion of the meeting. “It seems like six months between now and the next building season, the next sun season would be sufficient.”
The longest allowed time for a moratorium is a year, but an entire year may not be necessary. It’s possible that the guidelines for solar, wind and cell towers that the board plans to create during the moratorium could take less than a year. The purpose of the moratorium is to give the board time to create zoning rules and regulations around large solar, wind and cell tower projects in the area, because current land use regulations do not include those rules and regulations.
“Right now, you can put up anything you want in this town,” Supervisor Michael Reynolds said. “We want something on paper to slow it down here, so you don’t get the 70-acre ones popping up right next to you.”
But what took up most of the conversation around the proposed law was section nine, which, before the board changed it, read as “The provisions of this Local Law shall not be applicable to any solar or wind energy project that is designed to provide energy only to the lot on which it is located.” Residents’ concerns about section nine were that it did not adequately address what the board said it wanted to prepare for: large solar and wind projects. The original wording of section nine did not put specifications on the size of the project and could have possibly been a loophole.
“That doesn’t take into account the reality that anybody building a residential facility wants to put that energy back into the grid, which the PSC [Department of Public Service] has foreseen,” said the same resident who spoke of concerns with the length of the moratorium. “I think that item nine should be amended to reflect a size of build possibly, and not whether it’s only on the lot.”
Before voting to pass the moratorium, the board, with the advice of the Town Attorney Patrick Morrell, changed the wording of section nine to read as “The provisions of this Local Law shall not be applicable to any solar or wind energy project that is designed to have a rated DC [direct current] capacity of 25 kilowatts or less.” The rest of the Local Law remained unchanged when passed.
[Article title has been amended for clarity – NWW]
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