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Van Buren Solar Project Gets Backing By County IDA

A controversial solar project in Van Buren has been given the necessary tax breaks to move ahead.

During a recent meeting of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, board members approved a deviation resolution to permit the county to draft, negotiate, finalize, and execute documents to implement the financial assistance requested for the solar project.

The 3-megawatt project will be located at 4545 Van Buren Road, Fredonia, in the town of Pomfret. The company requested property tax abatement for 25 years, sales tax abatement for one year and a mortgage recording tax abatement.

The project is being proposed by RIC Development and expected to cost $3.1 million to construct. The project is also expected to create 30 construction jobs and 0.3 full-time equivalent jobs. CEO Jon Rappe said he would like to start construction in early 2022 and plans to have it operational by August.

In August 2021, the Pomfret Town Board voted 4-1 to issue a special use permit, pending an environmental quality review of the project.

Pomfret requested the county IDA serve as the lead agency for the environmental study.

During the county IDA’s public hearing, a number of concerns were raised. Among the issues were glare, the use of agricultural land, drainage issues, wild life being affected, the clearing of land, and if groundwater could be contaminated.

Other objections included that people were against state incentives and questioned if this project fit within the county IDA’s mission.

Attorney Milan Tyler said the issues brought up were fully explored. “As a result of the public hearing and a number of the comments that (were) mentioned, we expanded our SEQR analysis and worked with the developer to get additional answers and documentation to each of those issues that were raised,” he said.

After the analysis was completed, Tyler said that “we determined that it’s reasonable for the board to conclude that there’s no negative, adverse environmental impact.”

The county IDA board agreed and voted to accept the negative declaration.

With the passage of the resolutions and the Special Use Permit from the town of Pomfret, the project is expected to move forward. Rappe thanked the board for their help.

In July, the county IDA gave its backing for a different solar project in Pomfret. That one was located on Christy Road. It did not have nearly the opposition this project received. Neighbors have been protesting the Van Buren solar project at multiple town board meetings this year.

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