Seward’s Planning Board needs to reject the 20-MW Rock District Solar project proposed for 357 acres off Route 145 and Brown Road in Carlisle—but with a substation and panels in Seward.
That’s what speakers told Planning Board members at Seward’s first public hearing on the Cypress Creek Renewables plan Tuesday.
The public hearing continues February 21 at 7pm; Carlisle’s PB will also continue it’ public hearing and discussion at its next meeting, February 14 at 7pm.
Ninety-five percent of the proposed project is in Carlisle.
While both Planning Boards must review the project--and decide whether to issue the necessary permits--Carlisle’s is the lead agency.
Carlisle has issued a negative declaration for the project as defined by SEQR—the State Environmental Quality Review Act—a list of questions that looks at its potential impact on things like wetlands and stormwater runoff—and determined it won’t “have significant, adverse environmental impacts.”
Lennie Prezorski of Cold Spring Farm in Lawyersville asked whether the SEQR could be reopened if additional, new impacts are uncovered.
If it’s something new that wasn’t addressed before, “it could rise to the level of requiring an Environmental Impact Statement,” said attorney Terresa Bakner, one of the town’s consultants for the project.
No EIS has been done, she said.
MaryAnn Nelson, who lives in Seward, raised questions also asked in Carlisle over the possibility of catastrophic events like fires—as well as who is paying Ms. Bakner.
“I represent the Town of Seward and the Town of Carlisle,” Ms. Bakner said. “The applicant pays for any legal fees.”
Others pressed Jeff Davis, the attorney for Cypress Creek, on the project’s economic benefits; taxes and payments to host communities could total more than $3.8 million over 15 years, he said.
Carlisle Supervisor John Leavitt isn’t buying it.
“Three years ago…you promised a model project with a good PILOT…tax dollars. That money is nothing. I get that much from Tennessee Gas, Iroquois Gas in a year.
“You came in, you put your hand on my shoulder and said you’d work with us. That all went away when the state got involved. You come in, you divide the town, and then you go back home.”
Wendy Rosa, the wife of Seward Supervisor Earlin Rosa, urged the Planning Board to ask Carlisle to take another look at SEQR.
More studies and many reports are needed, she said.
“No impact? Really? There are negative impacts to this.”
Mr. Rosa pointed out the project can’t move forward without Seward’s approval.
“You can say no,” he said.
“Won’t the state over-rule that?” asked Bruce Clapper of Carlisle.
“Of course,” answered Mr. Rosa, but it’s a matter of home rule.
“We’ve lost already,” he said. “This is just a formality to get to the end result”—and why he’s refused to negotiate with Cypress Creek over host community benefits.
It just doesn’t make sense, said Cindy Hayton, who lives over the Seward line in the Town of Sharon.
“I’m just listening, but I don’t like what I’m hearing. The soil, the impact on agriculture. I never thought we could lose that when I moved here 20 years ago.”
But it’s coming, Mr. Davis said.
“This is the model for New York State. The state is driving the need. Towns are going to have wind and solar facilities. Electricity is going to be much more localized.”