I have a great number of concerns in regards to the solar and wind ordinance that will soon come to a public hearing at the Lansing Town Board. My main concern is allowing large scale solar and wind installations in R3 zones. In the town zoning for R3 it says “The intent of the R3 District is to designate areas where the use of the land will change from the most traditional agricultural uses of the community to a more dense residential development depending, in part, upon introduction of public water and sewerage. Regulations and standards in the R3 District are intended to guide density and establish the criteria and conditions for development of the land driven by the reality of land values.”
My home is directly across from an R3 zone. I expected one day for homes to be built there. While I was expecting it, I was very happy when the farmer renting the land was able to bring back the soil and grow corn; expecting something doesn’t mean I welcomed it. What I didn’t expect was that it one day could be a power generating industrial site. That doesn’t fit with any expectation, current zoning, and frankly I don’t think it fits with what people consider farmland even though I understand the RA zones are much less regulated.
Farmers get an enormous tax benefit on their land and they should. Their income is wholly reliant on the land. If they were taxed at market value they could not make an income. But with that tax benefit I’ve always understood that the farmer was protecting the land, preserving it as open space. Yes, you have to accept the manure spread, the slow tractor, and yes, plowing at midnight. It’s all worth it. For that preservation the farmer gets ag rate taxes. I want farmers to make money off their land through income and farming. Speculation on land value invites problems and I see little difference between a solar array and a parking lot with a factory and that certainly wouldn’t be allowed in an R3. It’s unclear how turning farm land into glass and metal fields protects the land.
Reading over the solar law, it worries me that it reads much more favorably to the corporation than it does the Lansing resident. The document defines “Practicable” as satisfying the project purposes after taking into consideration cost, time, technology, and logistics. By having this in the document, it shows the rights of the corporation taking precedence over the rights of the Lansing resident. The project purposes are the main consideration, not the aesthetic of the town and the reasons people have chosen to live here. We declared ourselves a “Right to Farm” community with fanfare just a few years ago. I don’t think anyone would consider an industrial complex covering farmland for the next 25 years, farming.
In part 802.18 of the new law it says one of the goals is to minimize adverse visual impacts. I’m happy that we agree solar farms have a negative visual impact. Including making solar farms not permissible in R3 zones, and adjusting “practicable” to put residents before corporations, I’m requesting the town board remove the following from 802.18:
- “yet screening should minimize shading of solar collectors.” I’m not supportive of having these in RA zones either, but it would seem shading of the collectors should take a backseat to the screening from neighbors and folks just driving in and around town.
- “Up to 20%” should be pollinators,” as in wildflowers to help attract flying insects critical to farming. I’d like to see that as “at least 20%”
- A chain link fence is allowed under the ordinance. Chain link fence surrounding hundreds of acres? Animals are allowed to roam freely in Lansing, something I think most residents embrace. I’d request no fencing.
- Lighting would be allowed. The law says it would be activated by movement and would be directed. A light to serve any purpose has to be bright enough to serve that purpose. It would add to the light pollution that already is shed from Ithaca.
- In closing I’m requesting industrial sized solar and wind arrays not be allowed in R3 zones and that RA would have much stricter viewshed regulations. Once this land is gone, it will be gone for 25 years. I understand the lines from the power plant are attractive, but it’s unclear why the power plant land isn’t the starting point for these types of arrays.
The beginning of the local law makes some claims I would like to challenge. One, that’s it’s non-polluting. Once they’re installed there’s no pollution, but through their creation, the mining of the rare earth elements and metals, they pollute, just somewhere else. There’s been the claim this will lower electricity rates. That’s not been the case in Dryden where only 250 families have signed up for community solar and those who have signed up have seen little savings. Electricity rates didn’t increase when the power plant closed, so why should they decrease with solar.
While this will mean jobs building the arrays, that’s where those jobs end, unlike the powerplant that even at the end, employed 70 people. It also says it will encourage business development. How? I’d suggest a new natural gas supply would have an exponentially greater impact on attracting businesses than solar arrays covering up farmland that’s been a major draw for people to the town.