By Rob Montana
Two long-standing focal points for the Newfield town board are nearing a conclusion.
The town board is expecting to host a public hearing on its solar law sometime this month.
“We have a tentative law finished and we’re going to have a public hearing on it coming up,” said Newfield Town Supervisor Jeff Hart. “We’re waiting for the county’s recommendations on it and then we’ll schedule a public hearing in May.
“We’ll probably be voting on it sometime in June,” he added.
The solar law is timely with planned commercial solar farms planned for the town.
“Tentatively, we have two systems planned for the town, which the permits have been paid for,” Hart said. “Delaware River Solar is working on the systems, and they’re also working on some in the Town of Enfield, I believe.”
The company has a project approved for Enfield, and also is considering other towns in the county for additional projects.
The delay in construction of the solar panel systems has stemmed from a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement being negotiated by the county IDA, Hart said.
“Delaware Solar wanted a 20-year PILOT agreement, but towns can only negotiate 15-year agreements,” he said. “The county has been working on a 20-year PILOT.”
In March, The Ithaca Times reported the IDA had approved a PILOT for the project that would see the company pay a total of $16,000 annually for each 2-megawatt array, with a 2 percent increase each year of the agreement; the total amount to be paid over the course of the 20-year pact would be $388,758.
Hart was frustrated about the PILOT process, saying the town had negotiated higher financial terms with Delaware Solar that would bring more money to the town over the course of a 20-year deal. But, because only the county could negotiate a 20-year deal, which the company wanted, the town had to let the IDA handle the agreement.
“With three 2-megawatt systems proposed, if they used the terms we negotiated, it would have been something like $105,000 more over 20 years,” Hart said. “For a town like Newfield, that’s a lot of money.”
Also expected in June is a vote on a natural gas ban, Hart said.
“The town has been working on a natural gas ban law; it’s been in the works for many years,” he said. “It has been discussed for, probably going back six or seven years at least.
“We had some citizens sign a petition a couple years back, we had over 1,200 signatures,” Hart added. “At the time, it was probably more focused on fracking, which became a moot point when the state said they weren’t going to give any permits. The group wanted the town to take a stand against it anyway, so we put together a law.”
He noted that the vote likely would have come before the board in May, but a couple of councilpersons were not going to be able to attend the meeting, so it was pushed back a month.
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For more information about the Town of Newfield, visit its website at NewfieldNY.org.