recording of the inauguration, these remarks can be heard at 5:07.) It's hard to tell if Johnson was serious about his opposition to installing solar panels in North Bay. Earlier in his remarks, he told the audience that he and Council president Tom DePietro "receive a lotta shots." His comment about solar and North Bay may have been a humorous allusion to opposition from the Conservation Advisory Council to siting solar arrays on the capped landfill in North Bay. A week or so before the inauguration, Johnson and DePietro, as well as the rest of the Common Council, had received a communication from the CAC which read in part:
We, the members of the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), are concerned about the fast tracking of an RFP for large-scale solar development on RC-zoned land in the North Bay. This includes the capped former Columbia County Landfill, a parcel whose disposition our charter specifically asks us to weigh in on.
In our most recent meeting with Commissioner of Public Works Peter Bujanow and Council President Tom DePietro, we expressed our resistance to this proposal without, at the very least, incorporation of long-sought recreational/conservation objectives. Our recommendation is to use, as a starting point, the Starr Whitehouse design for the Columbia Land Conservancy’s proposed North Bay Conservation and Recreation Area.
If this land is to be part of this project, we strongly advise the Common Council to seek provisions that will benefit the city and its environment. These include protection of Hudson River viewshed and important grassland habitat, and incorporation of a long-sought trail system that will connect the City by foot to the Greenport Conservation Area. This trail will enable residents of the city to walk to one of the County’s most beautiful landscapes without needing a car; it would be a major recreational asset for the City, and achieving it is a matter of environmental justice.
It is particularly important to seek such benefits since the proposed solar development may, in fact, deliver few other significant advantages to the City of Hudson. The landfill—the part that interests developers most—is owned by the County, not the City, and the City would depend on the County’s largess for any share of revenues. As to lowering energy costs for our residents and businesses, as one of our members noted last week, the County already has plans for community solar development that would bring savings to all Columbia county residents, including residents of Hudson.
Given the lack of immediately identifiable benefits—and the loss of rare open space—the rush to an RFP on the part of the City is difficult to fathom. While we heartily support the development of renewable energy, we believe the City should be thoughtful about this proposal, and that the CAC should have the opportunity to consider features and design parameters that would achieve a balance between solar development, recreational amenities and habitat/open space.
The entire memo from the CAC, as well as a statement from CAC member Michael O'Hara, who chairs the Columbia County Environmental Management Council, regarding plans for community solar at the county level, can be found here.
Alternatives for hardscape siting of solar panels, as well as goals for the new year, will be topics of discussion at tonight's CAC meeting, which takes place at 6:00 p.m. Click here to join the Zoom meeting.