CLIFTON PARK — Plans for a 6.7-megawatt solar energy facility in the rural northwestern corner of town remain controversial, with some neighbors continuing to speak out against it at a town Planning Board meeting Wednesday night.
The community solar project proposed earlier this year by Active Solar would be located on a nearly 85-acre site to the east of Schauber Road and north of Hubbs Road, with the access road off of Hubbs Road in an area of upscale single-family homes. The land involved is former farmland, parts of it wooded, in an area zoned for conservation and residential development.
Several people who live on Hubbs Road say the access road, with power poles running out from the solar array, would be unsightly and diminish their property values.
“It’s a beautiful neighborhood. It’s going to absolutely destroy the views,” said Helen Wilson, who lives across Hubbs Road from the access point. “The access road is going to poorly affect property values.”
“Solar power plants really don’t belong in residential neighborhoods, especially this one,” said Lydia Savage, who lives on Schauber Road.
A majority of Planning Board members appeared to agree the visual impact needs further review, while indicating they generally support the concept of solar development for the site.
“I’m trying to find a way that concern can be mitigated or addressed,” said Planning Board Chairman Rocco Ferraro. “I do have some concerns about the visual impact.”
Ryan Farnum of Creighton Manning Engineering, representing the applicant, said the access was placed on Hubbs Road because that side of the property is more wooded than the Schauber Road side, and it was thought the woods would reduce the visual impact.
The Planning Board members tentatively made plans for a visit to the site in the next few weeks to see the possible impact for themselves. They hope to determine whether additional screening or other measures can be used to reduce the impact.
The Hubbs Road project is the sixth commercial solar array proposed in Clifton Park in recent years. Four have been constructed and one is approved but not yet built. The ones that have already been built haven’t generated any complaints, said town Planning Director John Scavo.
“This has been the most vocal group [of neighbors] opposed to community solar to date,” he said on Thursday.
The project requires a special use permit from the town Planning Board, as well as a site plan review. The special use permit application requires a public hearing, but not until after all the environmental issues, including the visual impact for neighbors, have been addressed.
Not all neighbors are opposed to the array, which would cover about 22 acres of the site and be set back at least 200 feet from the road. “I think solar panels are far more desirable than more houses and more cars. I thank the town for being responsible and considering renewable energy sources we so need now and in the future,” neighbor Gary Litwin wrote in a comment in the meeting’s Zoom chatroom.
New York state energy policy encourages community solar, which allows residential properties to get a credit for purchasing solar power from a commercial solar array.
If the property were to be developed with single-family houses rather than a solar array, the town Planning Department estimates about 28 houses could be built on the property.