The Town of Schoharie is looking to take the lead in the environmental review of the seven-megawatt solar project in the works for Route 30.
Following an update of steps Borrego Solar plans to shield what’s being called Bliss Solar from neighbors, Supervisor Alan Tavenner and councilmen voted 4-1 Wednesday to seek lead status for New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) for the project.
A state agency could step in and say it wants lead agency status before the 30-day clock ticks down, but that’s unlikely.
That means it would be up to the town to collect and evaluate data on the proposal’s impact on things like wetlands, wildlife, traffic, natural and historic resources, and human health before deciding whether to grant the required special use permit.
Only Councilman Jim Schultz voted against the town’s taking lead agency status, saying he’s tired of things like fracking, the quarry, and now solar dividing the town.
“I’m big on progress, but I don’t know if this fits in here,” he said. “This is going to divide the community again.”
Before the vote, Borrego engineer Dave Albrecht talked about an “extensive planting plan” a landscape architect has put together to address neighbors’ concerns.
The 41-acre solar project is divided into two pieces: one five-megawatts and the other, seven megawatts.
Using photographs that simulated the landscaping, Mr. Albrecht said a “couple hundred” 10-12-foot deciduous and coniferous trees would be planted to screen the 30,000 individual solar modules—modules make up the panels—on approximately 41 acres.
Additionally and more significantly, he said, wooden slats would be added to the seven-foot chain link fence at the five megawatt site, making it “opaque.”
“This is the major item,” he said.
But that didn’t really convince neighbors.
Marion Jaqueway said she’s all for people doing what they want with their property, but said the project should be allowed by zoning and not a special use permit.
Ms. Jacqueway’s also unhappy with the amount of forest that’s going to be cut down—about 18 acres will be clear-cut, Mr. Albrecht said and on another 8.6 acres, stumps will be left to maintain the soil and prevent erosion—and she pointed to the project’s impact on snowmobilers, hikers, and wildlife.
“Open land is disappearing,” she said, adding, “I’d rather look at a quarry with its natural stones…”
Mr. Albrecht said the solar panels will be dark; there won’t be glare, and “This is a huge improvement over the scar of a quarry. This is temporary…20 years…and it protects the land from other developers.”
Julie Langan will be able to see the solar project from her retirement home across the Valley—something she said she’s worked for her whole life.
Glen Esposito, who’ll also be looking at it from across the Valley, said screening it from his view will be impossible.
But property-owners Len and Meg Berdan are within their rights to sell their land and Borrego’s within theirs to seek approval for their project Mr. Tavenner said.
What follows now is a process laid out by the town’s solar law and state law.