Last night, East Light Partners made an initial presentation of their proposed solar project to the Greenport Planning. What is planned is a 5-megawatt community solar project to be installed on Vapor Trail, beside Route 9, just over the border in Greenport and adjacent to the Dr. Oliver Bronson estate, which is both a National Historic Landmark and the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility.
Two approvals from the Greenport Planning Board are required. The first is to subdivide the open meadow from the wooded area at the back of thr tract. During the discussion of the subdivision, some interesting information emerged. Genevieve Trigg, attorney for the Greenport Planning Board, pointed out that there were deed restrictions that could be problematic for the proposal. Apparently, at some point in the recent past, probably around the time the factory, which is now Flanders, was built, there was thought that the whole area--once orchards--might be developed as an industrial park. Among the deed restrictions, as revealed during last night's discussion, are the requirements that any buildings proposed for the site be approved by an architectural review board and that all utility lines be underground. There is a question of whether the deed restrictions remain in place with the subdivision of the property. Toward the end of the meeting, Planning Board chair Ed Stiffler said, speaking of the deed restrictions and the solar project, "If the covenants aren't settled through subdivision, this goes away."
The second approval needed from the Greenport Planning Board is for the solar panel project itself. The discussion of the project started out with Stiffler chiding Jamie Fordyce and Wendy DeWolf, the East Light Partners, for holding an informational meeting at the Hudson Area Library without notifying any of the members of the Greenport Planning Board. He reminded them that Greenport, not Hudson, is the location of the project and the municipality from which they must get approval for their plans.
The site for the project is 25 acres, and two arrays are proposed--one on either side of a wetland. Stiffler asked about PILOT negotiations, indicating that a PILOT agreement must be in place before the Planning Board can make a determination. What concerned the members of the Planning Board most were visual impacts. Fordyce indicated that National Grid is requiring the project to have six utility poles. Board member Robert MacGiffert told him, "The last solar field brought to the town gave us the same spiel," citing a solar project where one pole ended up being eleven poles. He warned, "Poles will be a big no-no for this project." Board member Paul D'Onofrio concurred, "We're not going to be burned twice." He alluded to the solar array behind Hudson High School, which evaded review by any planning board, and its impact on property owners in Greenport. Speaking of the possibility of poles at the proposed solar project being within the view of property owners, he predicted, "You're going to have one hell of a public hearing."
The applicants spoke of existing vegetation acting as a visual buffer, but the board wanted more screening--berms, trees, landscaping. Stiffler said he would "like to see screening wherever it's necessary to block the view of this."
Ray Jurkowski, the consulting engineer for the Greenport Planning Board, asked if SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) had weighed in on the project, noting that it was in the viewshed of Olana, adjacent to the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, and across the street from the National Register listed Henry A. and Evanlina Dubois House. The applicants indicated they had met with representatives of Scenic Hudson, Historic Hudson, and Olana. Jurkowski asked for letters from Historic Hudson and Olana confirming this.
Jurkowski suggested that there be a technical meeting on site, which was agreed to but not scheduled. The review of the project will continue at the Greenport Planning Board's next meeting, to take place on Tuesday, August 28.
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