Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Solar Initiative and the CAC

On Tuesday, the Common Council voted unanimously to issue the request for expressions of interest (RFEI) in developing a solar farm on City-owned land located along North Second Street. Although Council president Tom DePietro announced he was accepting public comment on the document for a few days prior to the vote, there is no indication that any changes were made to the document as a result. It will be remembered that the document includes a 21-page report done by the EPA in June 2017 which identifies the capped landfill as being, in the words of Peter Bujanow, Commissioner of Public Works, "ripe for development," even though the capped landfill is not actually the area being offered for development.

After the vote, Alderman Ryan Wallace (Third Ward) thanked the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) for "all their input." DePietro thanked Bujanow for his work in the writing the RFEI. He then said of the RFEI, "It does not set out firm dimensions of the project," and offered assurances that the CAC and the Columbia Land Conservancy, which developed a master concept plan for the North Bay Recreation and Natural Area in 2014, would "be involved when the developers respond."

On the day the Council voted to release the RFEI, the CAC sent a statement to members of the Common Council expressing their position on a draft RFEI. That statement reads in part:
While we support deployment of solar energy in our urban environment, we hope the process will be thoughtful and the use of open land limited. As a general rule, we believe that built environment, hardscape, parking lots and rooftops across the city are far more appropriate for this purpose than a rare and irreplaceable stretch of public land—particularly one with as much conservation and future recreational value as this one.
We recommend that the capped landfill and surrounding grassland be excluded from any industrialization, including solar arrays, and that, as planned in prior deliberation, these areas continue to heal and gradually be developed as open recreational space in a city that has very little.
At the same time, we propose that the CAC, working with the Common Council, undertake a comprehensive survey of renewables opportunities across the city. The issues presented here—renewable energy and open space—are both important and, in a dense urban area, should not be antithetical. Our strong belief is that in the decades ahead, the city will need both.
The statement included a map on which the parcels the CAC considered suitable locations for solar arrays were marked in fuchsia.

Those parcels are located (1) along the west side of North Second Street, starting about 200 feet beyond the driveway leading to the Hudson Dog Park; (2) on the plateau north of Charles Williams Park; (3) in an area to the east of the building where Harney & Sons is located.

Update: The final RFEI that was released on Wednesday can now be viewed on the City of Hudson website. The 21-page EPA report on the viability of the capped landfill as a site for a solar array is no longer part of the document. Click here to view the final document.


  1. Good work by the CAC. But all should be aware that the Starr Whitehouse design for the landfill's trail system (which extends into the land conservancy) sited a parking area and trail entrance in the same location west of North 2nd Street.

    Personally, I think it's totally nuts to waste real estate so near to the river on a solar array. There are better and unexplored ways to generate funds for the city (e.g., LafargeHolcim property tax), whereas this solar gimmick only seems ecologically enlightened to those with little knowledge of nature or awareness of what a jewel the North Bay is. These are the same individuals driving this project in the name of environmentalism, but from my perspective they're ignorant, unlearned people more apt to exploit nature. That's the real story here.

    1. This proposed parking area for the trailhead is where a compromise could be considered.

      Imagine, for those that need to park cars, a canopy of solar arrays, semi-covered parking, maybe the arrays supply energy for some e-vehicle chargers. These could be surrounded by a rain garden of appropriate plantings that capture stormwater run-off and filter out car fluids from entering the natural habitat. People would enter the trail system with the reminder that technology has it's place in protecting the environment.

      A possible positive blend. Hilary

    2. Very positive sounding Hilary, but I think less than desirable. Thanks.

  2. The actual terms show that those now pushing for a solar array along North 2nd Street are violating the spirit of the 2014 agreement between the city and county.

    You can say, as President DePietro has said, that the proposal sets out "no firm dimensions of the project," but everyone knows that if the 2nd Street site is found to be preferable (read: cheaper, easier, and more lucrative), and learns this news from a developer no less, that will create an unstoppable momentum before the Columbia Land Conservancy is even consulted.

    The costly Starr Whitehouse plan which grew out of the conservancy's "Concept Master Plan" may not be unalterable, but the 2nd Street lot is already spoken for in that plan. To be told now that the conservancy will be "involved" once the developers have responded is an affront to the 2104 agreement between the city and county.

    Our current city officials are running roughshod over the 2014 agreement secured by their predecessors, wherein the city agreed to work WITH the "conservancy, the state, other involved agencies and organizations and the affected community in the city to complete preliminary assessment of the feasibility, desirability and practicability of implementing the Concept Master Plan or a variation thereof and to secure funding for that work" (citation below).

    Seeing as the city's typically bored and low-energy officials and representatives left the preliminary assessment to the conservancy, what was the city's official response to the later Starr Whitehouse plan? Did anyone in City government involve themselves during that planning process? How about at the plan's public presentation in the county building? What was the City's involvement in any of it per the 2014 agreement?

    So this new development - a solar array right where the conservancy's developed plan sites an entrance kiosk and parking for its trail system - is really due to our officials' lack of involvement (and lack of imagination) in the development of the Concept Master Plan. They suppose that, having taken no part in the expensive Starr Whitehouse planning, they can simply ignore their obligations in hopes of squeezing a few bucks out of some vacant riverside lot.

    To me, who followed the Starr Whitehouse design from start to finish, it's unconscionable to now pretend that this agreement and the subsequent planning never happened:

    "WHEREAS, in conformity with the LWRP and in consultation with the County and the City, the Columbia Land Conservancy developed a concept master plan entitled the 'Hudson North Bay Recreation and Natural Area Master Plan' ....

    "WHEREAS, the County Board of Supervisors and the City of Hudson Common Council and Mayor have expressed their support for the creation of a public recreation and conservation area in and around the North Bay to provide a significant amenity for the citizens of the City and County and protect the physical integrity of the Landfill ....

    "NOW THEREFORE, in consideration of the terms and conditions herein contained, the parties agree as follows:

    "1. The City agrees to work with the Columbia Land Conservancy, the State, other involved agencies and organizations and the affected community in the City to complete preliminary assessment of the feasibility, desirability and practicability of implementing the Concept Master Plan or a variation thereof and to secure funding for that work."

    [From an Agreement between the City of Hudson and Columbia County, May 20, 2014]