K’hook OKs new solar regs

VALATIE–The Kinderhook Town Board has approved updated zoning regulations for solar energy equipment. At the board meeting Monday night, November 13, the board finally adopted the solar amendments after a review that stretched for more than a year and led to one change from the original proposal–removal of language that would have allowed the town Planning Board to use its discretion to waive some requirements.

Also this week the town announced that it has received 77 acres previously owned by the state. The land will be used for recreational purposes.

The board voted three-to-one to approve Local Law #1 of 2017, which updated the zoning laws on solar panels and other solar equipment, including solar farms, on properties in the town. Councilman Paul Voltz voted against the law, saying he supported the wording that was being deleted from one section of the zoning code. Board members Phil Bickerton and Tim Ooms agreed with the removal of the wording. Councilwoman Patsy Leader was not at the meeting. Supervisor Pat Grattan said he would vote for the revised law as a way to complete the changes.

“I would say strike it just to get this done,” he said of the wording.

As originally proposed by the town’s Codes Committee, the deleted revision read: “The Planning Board may, in its discretion, waive or simplify any of the requirements set forth in this section…that the board deems are unnecessary or inappropriate for its review of an application.”

The Codes Committee includes Mr. Ooms, Mr. Voltz, the chairs of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Apples (ZBA) and the Code Enforcement Officer. They reviewed the updates and sent the document on to the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals for review. Both of those bodies agreed with the changes. The changes were also reviewed by members of the town’s Smart Climate Committee.

The final approval of the changes lies “with the Town Board,” Town Attorney Andy Howard reminded the audience at the November 13 meeting.

Several residents have come to the board since the public hearing on the law in August saying that allowing the Planning Board to waive requirements undercut the regulations.

Resident Ed Simonsen, who was at Monday night’s meeting, said that leaving the wording in would mean “no limits” for the Planning Board. He said of the zoning codes for solar equipment, “99% of it was excellent.”

Bernadette Powis pointed out to the board that there were pages of regulations in this new code for the Planning Board to follow. She said that giving the Planning Board discretion meant, “The Zoning Board of Appeals is left out of this process.”

Mr. Ooms said that the Codes Committee added the wording to help create more opportunity for residents to apply to put up solar panels. But he did not object to striking the wording from the law, saying that if an applicant has an issue the applicant can request changes from the ZBA. “The ZBA works,” he said.

Mr. Voltz said he thought the wording would have “let common sense come in.”

With the motion adopted, the law will be submitted to the state for review before it takes effect. Mr. Howard said that should take a few weeks.

Also at the November 13 board meeting, Supervisor Grattan announced that the town will take ownership of 77 acres behind Volunteer Park on State Farm Road. The land was owned by the state, which is granting it to the town at no cost. The town will have to pay some closing costs on the transfer, according the motion read in part by Mr. Grattan at the meeting.

Mr. Grattan said the land will be used for trails and recreation.

Mr. Ooms pointed out that the driveway into the Volunteer Park, which is a town park, is on the land newly received from the state.

Mr. Grattan thanked the members of the town’s Recreation Committee and the Trail Committee for their work on obtaining the land. “It will be an asset,” he said.

Also at the meeting:

• The board approved hiring a company called Revize to update the town’s website. Former board member Peter Bujanow, who created the bid package to find a company to update the website and reviewed the bidders for the board, said that a contract should be signed soon. After the contract is signed a new town website should be up in nine to twelve weeks, he said. There is an initial cost of about $12,000 and then going forward the annual cost will be $2,200

• Mr. Grattan said that surveying is still being done on Wildflower Road. The survey is being done so that the town can pave the dirt road, at the residents’ expense, and make it town road that the town’s Highway Department will maintain

• After a public hearing, the board approved the franchise agreement with Charter for cable television service

• The board plans to hold a public hearing on the 2018 proposed Town Budget on Monday, November 20 at 6:30 p.m.

The next regular board meeting will be Monday, December 4 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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