Ready or not, big solar comes to Copake

COPAKE—The night was full of surprises at the December 14 Town Board meeting and the biggest one came from the state, like it or not.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) aims to put a “significant” solar energy generation project on Taconic State Park land in Copake Falls.

The project, which is exempt from the town’s new Solar Energy Law enacted in April, will cover 5.2 acres of park property off Orphan Farm Road.

It is one of several large-scale photovoltaic electrical generation projects that are part of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy, slated for installation at state parks on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, according to a letter to Town Supervisor Jeffrey Nayer from OPRHP Regional Director Linda G. Cooper, dated November 29.

Mr. Nayer announced the project at the meeting as part of the correspondence received by the board, noting, the town’s duly enacted solar law is apparently of no consequence, the state’s position is, “We’re doing it.”

The project would qualify as a utility scale solar energy system under the new law and would be subject to application for a special permit, setbacks and site plan review. The law specifically says utility scale energy systems are prohibited within the Scenic Corridor Overlay Zone in which the site is located.

OPRHP is working with the New York Power Authority on this “new solar initiative to bring low-cost and renewable power to parks facilities in the Long Island, Palisades and Taconic regions.”

The projects in the initiative will “take key steps toward reducing the state’s carbon footprint, improving the health of our public spaces, protecting the environment and supporting” the Governor’s “ambitious energy goals” to ensure that 50% of the state’s electricity comes from renewable energy by 2030, according to the project overview.

The project’s array field generation capacity “is expected to be 1,262 kilowatts for an annual output of 1,665 Megawatt-hours per year. This is 7.7 times more electricity than the Copake area of the park uses and about half of what the entire Taconic Park Region uses in a year.”

The power generation “will significantly offset utility charges with NYSEG for the region. The array field will consist of 3,822 modules covering approximately 5.2 acres at the site. The installation of the array is expected to begin in the summer of 2018.” Solar Liberty, a Buffalo firm, was awarded the contract.

We are very excited to be part of this initiative. If you have any questions or would like additional details on this project, please contact me,” Ms. Cooper wrote. But a call to Ms. Cooper and repeated calls to the OPRHP press office for more information were not returned.

In other surprising Town Board business:

* Sole Appointed Assessor J. Craig Surprise was fired. The vote was four to one in favor of the firing, with Councilperson Jeanne Mettler the only no vote. Neither Supervisor Nayer nor Councilperson Mettler would say anything further about the matter and a call to Mr. Surprise was not returned. He has been employed by the town since 2011, when he was hired to perform a townwide property revaluation in-house at a cost savings. The reval was completed in 2016 and many taxpayers were outraged at the resulting changes to their property assessments, voicing complaints at the March 2016 Town Board meeting. The board will conduct a special meeting December 28 to go into executive session to conduct interviews and possibly appoint a new sole assessor.

* Grant “Mike” Langdon unwillingly left the meeting at the direction of a sheriff’s deputy. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Mr. Langdon repeated asked the board to adopt a resolution to censure District Attorney Paul Czajka for alleged wrongdoing in connection with the Copake arson cases. Supervisor Nayer told Mr. Langdon over and over that it was not a matter within the Town Board’s purview. The deputy attempted to restore order to the meeting by escorting Mr. Langdon from the room, but Mr. Landgon began yelling “Kangaroo court” and “take me to jail.”

* The board voted unanimously not to provide $500 in funding to the Copake VFW Post #7955 as requested in a letter from Post Quartermaster Arnie Anderson. Mr. Nayer said the post failed to decorate local veteran’s graves with American flags last Memorial Day, which is, at least in part, what the money pays for. Mr. Nayer said he was unaware that the post did not perform this service until a young woman, who went to visit her grandfather’s grave, found no flag had been placed there. She then spent $100 of her own money to purchase flags and placed them on her grandfather’s and others’ graves.

* The board voted to add the Bank of Greene County to its list of depositories. According to an analysis prepared by the Greene County bank, the town could earn $4,000 in interest per year on the same amount of money it has in Key Bank, where it has earned only $328 so far this year.

* Mr. Nayer donned a black (where the red is supposed to be) and white Santa Claus hat bearing the words, “Bah humbug.” The supervisor then proceeded to thank the many volunteers who organize the Roe Jan Ramble bicycle ride; who sponsor lighted Christmas trees around the hamlet, sell wreaths, provide poinsettias to shut-ins and raise money for memorial clock maintenance through Copake Community Service, Inc.; who serve as firefighters and fire police to protect the town day and night. “Copake is lucky to have a lot of volunteers,” he said.

The town’s yearend meeting is set for December 28 at 9 a.m. and it’s organization meeting is set for January 3 at 7 p.m., both at Town Hall.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbia paper.com

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