August 21, 2019
New York

Town to amend solar and wind energy laws

By Andrew Sullivan | Ithaca Times | August 21, 2019 |

The Lansing Town Council will review and possibly draft a final document for a new local law that would amend the land use ordinance related to solar and wind energy systems at its meeting on Aug. 21.

According to a current draft, the purpose of the law is to “facilitate and regulate the development and operation of certain renewable energy systems based upon the use of sunlight and wind,” for local residents and energy system companies.

“The goal here as part of this project was to get more specific about the size of the projects that would go to different types of review,” Lansing Town Director of Planning CJ Randall said.

Randall said this law would help the Lansing Town Planning Board decipher which energy systems are for commercial use—systems that sell their generated power to a third party—and which energy systems are for noncommercial use.

Another purpose of this law, according to the draft, would be to “mitigate the impacts of such systems upon environmental resources.” Randall said there are multiple aspects that factor into how the town would limit potential environmental impact, one being whether or not the town would permit large energy systems—systems over 10,000 square feet—to cover actively farmed prime agricultural soils. Those soils, according to Randall, are classified by the United States Department of Agriculture and its natural resource conservation service “based on their productivity, basically how important they are in terms of farming.”

Other reasons include considering whether or not an energy system should be installed in locations such as where there are flood hazard concerns or where wetlands are present.

“The siting matters, although the planning board can overrule any of these things along with site plan review…but mostly what a planning board is looking at, in terms of a review of a project like this, is really some of the aesthetic concerns and also issues surrounding public health and safety, ingress and egress,” Randall said.

The planning board and Lansing Town Board Agricultural Committee have looked over the current draft and made a few recommendations, including one regarding the protection of prime soils: “Solar Energy Systems sited on Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide Importance may be required to seed up to 20% of the total surface area of panels on the lot with native perennial vegetation designed to attract pollinators.” The two groups also recommended that there be no requirement for obtaining a building permit for very small solar energy systems under 1,000 watts.

Following the town council’s discussion on the proposed law, a public hearing will be set for Sept. 18 so that residents can share their questions and/or comments regarding the law. Barring any last-minute amendments, the town council will look to adopt the law that same day.

“That’s when I anticipate that we’ll actually get a sense of what people’s concerns really are,” Randall said. “That’s when I anticipate when the Town Board might actually just adopt the local law. They might adopt it that evening; they might want to do more revisions after hearing the public. But I can’t say enough that we really do want as much feedback as we can, especially from the farming community, of course.”

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