K’hook solar farm awaits approval vote

VALATIE–The town Planning Board held a workshop meeting Thursday, March 14 to go over the plans for a solar farm from East Light Partners and to hear from a representative from the Bank of Greene County about a new branch. Both projects are planned for properties along Route 9 and both companies will be back in front of board this week.

The Planning Board is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the East Light Partners project this Thursday, March 21. Neighbors have been notified about the project to put about 20 acres of solar panels on a site of about 100 acres off of Route 9 across from Knickerbocker Lake Road on the town border with Rensselaer County. The company will lease the land.

The company has been working with the board since December to make sure it is following the new town zoning laws on large solar projects, which include screening so that the panels cannot be seen from the road. The Town Board approved changes to the zoning code for solar equipment in November 2017 and, according to Planning Board members at last week’s meeting, this is the first large solar project proposal they have reviewed.

I think we are all set,” said Planning Board Chair Jason Graham of the March 21 public hearing. The board will hear from the public on the plan before voting to grant a special use permit for the project.

According to the East Light Partners’ website, the panels can be used by area residents and businesses to collect energy credits and can apply those solar energy credits to their current National Grid power bills without having to put panels on their roofs or properties.

East Light is developing a community shared solar facility on vacant land on Route 9 to which local homes and businesses can subscribe. We are currently enrolling customers for ELP Kinderhook Solar! Based on your share of the solar project’s generation, you will receive a monetary credit on your monthly utility bill. Shares are structured to guarantee utility bill savings, all while supporting local renewable energy generation,” the website reads. The company has offices in Dover Plains and in Cambridge, MA.

East Light is also currently working on projects in Greenport as well as Saugerties and East Fishkill.

East Light Partners founder Wendy De Wolf said in a phone interview after the meeting that this was “large solar facility” and that her company had worked with the town to follow the new zoning laws. She talked about screening that includes 60 evergreen trees along one section of project. At the meeting she talked about working with the state Department of Transportation. Route 9 is a state road. Minutes from the January Planning Board meeting say that the current access driveway to the property starts on an adjacent lot so the company needed to apply to DOT for a curb-cut to the site or acquire an easement from the neighbor to use the existing access.

East Light will present an overview of the project at the public hearing Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at in the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building.

Also at the meeting the Planning Board heard from Kevin Berry, a developer for the Bank of Greene County, who had questions about putting a new bank branch in the Ocean State Job Lot Plaza on Route 9. Mr. Berry said there would be no drive-through and the ATM would be inside the door with card access. He also said there would be 3 to 4 employees working at the branch. He was asking the board what were the next steps for getting permits since he couldn’t find specific information about a building permit from the town.

Board members said they thought he had to present a “basic site plan” and they would ask Town Attorney Andy Howard to contact the bank’s attorney. Mr. Howard as not at the workshop meeting.

Mr. Berry pointed out that the bank would use less water and sewer than the restaurant that was at the spot the bank plans to use. He also said the bank has five branches in the county. The plaza is in the town, just over the Village of Valatie line.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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