Sharon out of $ to fight super-solar project


By Patsy Nicosia

Two-and-a-half years after the Town of Sharon was surprised by developers’ plans to build a 352-acre commercial solar project there, the battle’s cost everyone involved more than $20,000.
That’s on top of the $50,000 in intervenor funds NextEra Energy was required to provide for studies as part of the Article 10 process.
Review of the proposed project, which would be built along Route 20 and near Gilbert’s Corners, Empie, and Beech Roads, by the State Public Service Commission’s Siting Board has been hindered by COVID-19.
A spring information meeting for neighbors was cancelled; legal hearings, including one that would have started last Thursday, have also been cancelled.
Supervisor Sandy Manko said they could have pressed to hold that last hearing, but with intervenor funds exhausted and bills still coming in, they decided not to.
It would be too expensive.
As it stands now, Ms. Manko said, the Town of Sharon and Ag & Markets oppose the project—for the same reasons—and she said Ag & Markets isn’t going to request a hearing.
“They feel there’s no benefit,” she said. “There’s enough on record to make their argument,” that the project will be taking too much valuable farmland out of production.
“The town had two things to consider…Cost and uncertainty of a good result. If we go through the expense of cross-examination and file additional information, the judges may have already made up their mind to say no anyway.”
NextEra is seeking a PILOT—payment-in-lieu-of-taxes—for the project and because Schoharie County, and Sharon Springs Central School would see PILOT revenue, they’re also contributing toward the legal costs.
The total bill for an opt-out law, which made PILOT negotiations the Industrial Development Agency’s job, was $6,362.56.
Of that, the county paid $1,908.77, SSCS paid $3,181.28, and the town paid $1,272.51
And with the $50,000 in intervenor funds exhausted, bills are still coming in, Ms. Manko said.
June attorney and engineering bills total $15,720.01.
Of that, the town’s share is $3,144, the school’s share is $7,860.01, and the county’s, $4,716.
“The town doesn’t have the finances to go up against a large corporation and they know it,” Ms. Manko said.
“We’re dealing with a bureaucracy who wants to see this happen and probably don’t care much about farmland or keeping the rural environment,” which has been the town’s concern all along, she said.
“We’re not against solar,” she said. “We are against losing home rule. We’re setting the standard for projects like this across the state. The decisions we make will impact us for the next 30, 40, 50 years…they have to be the right ones.
“We want to get this settled before the Governor changes the rules again and we don’t get a thing.”