Solar Project In Busti Moves Forward

BUSTI — Several hurdles have been cleared for the installation of a solar farm in Busti.

Its approval is now being followed with a proposed year-long moratorium on new solar energy facilities to give town officials time to review the zoning codes.

At their Jan. 9 meeting, Busti Town Board members approved two resolutions regarding a planned 8-megawatt solar farm at 1192 Orr St. The first was to issue a negative declaration pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act while the other was to approve a special use permit for SL Jamestown LLC to construct and operate the “large-scale solar energy system” on the 27.56-acre site.

Town council member Todd Hanson recused himself on the resolution and council member Paul Gustafson voted no to each.

A handful of town residents voiced concerns in recent months regarding the planned solar farm. Mike Higbee, speaking last month on behalf of his parents, questioned the long-term impacts from the project to nearby homeowners. Higbee said he came across a solar farm in Olean, which he described to the Town Board as an eyesore to the area.

Solar Liberty had previously submitted site plans for the project to the town. The company, started by Nathan and Adam Rizzo and who have ties to Jamestown, has other solar projects in the works locally, including in the towns of Portland and Pomfret.

The Rizzos were at the December meeting of the Town Board where Gustafson — who said he was not opposed to solar projects — outlined why he felt the proposed project did not fit at the Orr Street site. He believes a solar farm does not fit what community members in that area are looking for; he said residents vote in Town Board members, who should be the voice of the town, and the majority of residents of the area oppose the project due to its site view.

Gustafson also noted the location of the project, which he said is on the “entrance” to the hamlet of Busti.

In regard to solar arrays being viewed from the road and nearby homes, Nathan Rizzo said Solar Liberty is “committed to the screening being re-evaluated in a year and will put up additional screening if needed,” according to minutes from the Dec. 5, 2022, meeting of the Town Board.

During a public hearing on the project in July 2022, Nathan Rizzo said vegetation will keep the project hidden from the road and area homes. He said trees will be planted to keep the project out of sight.

At the July hearing, Nathan Rizzo said he expected construction to begin within six to eight months once approval was granted and take about four months to complete. He said the first four to six weeks of construction will involve driving the posts for the solar arrays, and the remainder of the project will all be constructed with hand tools. A fence also will be installed.

In August 2022, the Solar Liberty officials fielded more questions about the project. Adam Rizzo said the company will be supplying payment in lieu of taxes to the town, county and local school district. Solar Liberty also will establish a host agreement and will pay the town for allowing the project to be located in Busti. In addition, the company participates in what’s called a “Community Solar Project” where customers of National Grid can save on their electric bill.

Jesse Robbins, Busti town supervisor, said Solar Liberty will be required to “meet various terms and conditions” outlined in the special use permit prior to a building permit being issued. He said the company will then need to meet with the town’s Planning Board for a final site plan review followed by one last approval by the Town Board.

A public hearing has been scheduled for March for a local law that would enact a one-year moratorium on commercial solar energy facilities. As noted in the language of the local law, “Since the Town Board amended the town’s zoning code in 2020, it has received several applications for large-scale solar projects, and the experience gained from those applications leads the Town Board to conclude that further amendments are required.”

The moratorium, if passed, will limit any new permits or construction of commercial solar farms for a year while zoning codes are reviewed and possibly updated.


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