Ogden Planning Board approves second community solar project

By on January 22, 2018

By a vote of 5-1, members of the Ogden Planning Board January 11 gave preliminary and final site plan approval to Delaware River Solar, LLC, for a solar energy facility proposed at 760 Washington Street. The project includes the construction of four, approximately 2 MW photovoltaic solar generation facilities on approximately 10 acres each. The property is currently zoned R-1 single family residential and requires rezoning to Solar Energy System Overlay District.

Planning Board member Mike Baird cast the only no vote. Conditions of the approval include addressing any concerns of the town engineer, Conservation Board and highway superintendent as well as the planting of a screen of maintained trees between 8 and 10 feet in height.

The project next moves to the Zoning Board for a conditional use permit.

A public hearing on the application was held prior to the vote.  Dave Matt of Schultz Associates told Planning Board members Delaware River Solar had made requested revisions to the plan, including improvements to a commercial entrance off of Colby Street.  The project will be surrounded by an 8 feet chain link fence and the trees used for screening will be planted in two staggered rows.

Several neighbors of the project who live on Washington Street spoke during the public hearing and raised a number of concerns.  Two said they will be able to see the facility from their upstairs windows.

“I don’t want to be looking at panels,” said one neighbor, who also  expressed worries over batteries – which she said might cause serious health issues – noise, and decreased property values.

“All power generated is sent immediately to the grid,” Delaware Solar CEO and owner Richard Winter said. “There are no batteries.”  He explained that noise studies have been completed and that four inverters will be placed in the center of each array to limit noise.  “When there is no sunlight, there is no noise,” he added.

“From my second story, I have a beautiful view of open farmland,” another neighbor on Washington Street said. “It’s one of the reasons I bought my property … I’m disappointed.”

Gail Roth, who also lives on Washington Street, said neighbors are not against solar power, but, “we care about where we are living … we would hate to see this town change like a city.”

Roth also questioned how the property will be taxed, once it is in the solar overlay district.

Ogden Town Board member Tom Uschold attended the public hearing. He explained that the town has opted out of state tax breaks for solar projects and that the town assessor will review the facility once it is developed to determine the appropriate value for tax purposes.

Many who spoke expressed concerns over which variety of evergreen trees would work best for screening purposes.

George Reed of Delaware Solar said that in the company’s talks with arborists, taller trees are more difficult to transplant and often die. He asked for flexibility in choosing the initial height of trees planted for the screen.

The Delaware River community solar project is the second solar project making its way through the town’s approval process.  In November, 2017, the Planning Board gave preliminary and final site plan approval for a solar array on Whittier Road, just west of Washington Street proposed by Abundant Solar Power.

In other business January 11, Planning Board members agreed to recommend a proposed three-story 24-unit apartment building on approximately 4.6 acres of property at 2715 Manitou Road to the Zoning Board.

The project is proposed for an unusual lot on the west side of Manitou Road opposite the tech park. It does not require re-zoning, but is in need of several variances from the Zoning Board.

“It’s the most unique project I have worked on in over 20 years,” Ed Martin of LandTech told Planning Board members.  “It is a uniquely shaped property and a difficult site to develop. I saw a lot of hurdles, but the more we talked, the more it made sense.”

Martin said the apartments would appeal to seniors because the apartments are in a more secure, self-contained building. He said the apartment building would serve as a way to transition between industrial and  single family zones in the area.

Additionally, Planning Board member Mary Lou Hetzke was recognized for her 25 years of service to the town. Ogden Supervisor Gay Lenhard presented Hetzke with a plaque at the beginning of the meeting, and thanked Hetzke for her years of efforts on behalf of town residents. Hetzke has served on both the Ogden Zoning and Planning Boards.

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