VALATIE—The Kinderhook Town Board tabled a motion to approve proposed zoning regulations on solar farms Monday night.
The board also voted to condemn the recent statements made on social media by a councilperson.
There were five public hearings on proposed local laws set for the May 3 meeting. The board held an in-person meeting in the gym at the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building with just under 50 attendees. Everyone wore masks and there was a sign-in for Covid-19 contact tracing.
The local law that received the most comments was a proposed amendment to the zoning law on solar power. The town adopted zoning regulations for solar energy equipment in 2017 after a committee review. The board at the time discussed the regulations with the public comment during board meetings and a public hearing.
The new solar power proposal discussed at the May 3 meeting includes 14 standards for “applications seeking a special use permit and site plan approval pursuant to §250-50 of the Kinderhook Town Code for development of a Solar Farm.” The standards include setbacks, screening, and one saying that “the maximum acreage that a Solar Farm may occupy in any zoning district within the Town of Kinderhook shall be five (5) acres” and “no solar farm shall be designed, constructed or placed upon land containing ‘prime farmland soils’ and/or ‘soils of statewide importance.’”
Town Attorney Andy Howard read the comments from the town’s Planning Board on the proposed regulations at the public hearing. The Planning Board received the proposed law after the Town Board set the public hearing at their April meeting. The Planning Board comments suggested increasing the acreage for solar farms, the max lot usage and the set backs, as well as other proposals. Mr. Howard also said the county Planning Board reviewed the plan and decided it would have no significant impact on the county.
Town Supervisor Patsy Leader said the board has received letters on the proposed law—one supportive and seven against.
Several audience members spoke against the proposed law and asked the board to form a committee or work group to look at the proposal and make suggestions. When pressed about why the board had proposed the law, Mr. Howard said the regulations had been discussed by the town Codes Committee, and he said it was also discussed by the Town Board at the meeting last month. He said the reason for the regulations is that the town Planning Board had been seeing a lot of applications for solar farms and there was concern about groups leasing farmland for solar equipment.
Mr. Howard said that the public hearing “was part of the consideration process” and now the Town Board had heard what the public had to say. The board closed the public hearing and tabled the motion to approve the law. Supervisor Leader said the board would form a group to look at solar farm regulations.
The other four laws were passed with little to no public comment. They included establishing the position of confidential administrative assistant to the supervisor, laws on property maintenance, electrical inspectors and changing the hearing date of the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) so the building inspector could attend. At the meeting the board also appointed Walt Simonsmeier and Thomas Burrall as provisional building inspectors.
‘[N]o solar farm shall be designed, constructed or placed upon land containing ‘prime farmland soils…’
From a proposed solar farm law
Town of Kinderhook
The other long discussion at the meeting began when Councilwoman Deborah Johnson read a statement condemning comments made by Councilwoman Sally Hogan on her Facebook page. Ms. Johnson said that she was concerned about the most recent statement and others Ms. Hogan has made. Ms. Johnson said the board had been taking up meeting time to deal with concerns from her constituents about Ms. Hogan’s statements. She also stressed that Councilwoman Hogan “does not speak for me.”
Ms. Johnson made the motion, seconded by Councilman Tim Ooms. The board voted to condemn Ms. Hogan’s recent statements, with all board members except Ms. Hogan voting yes.
Ms. Hogan said that she had a “right to free speech.”
Later in the meeting when asked by residents about accountability for Ms. Hogan’s comments, Mr. Howard said the board could not force a board member to leave. He did say there was a process through “aggrieved” parties or the District Attorney and he mentioned the “ballot box.”
Councilwoman Hogan also made a statement at the meeting saying that she believed Supervisor Leader had violated town code by harassing an employee. She pointed out that Bookkeeper and Assistant to the Superintendent Dee Voss resigned last month, along with her husband, Code Enforcement Officer Wayne Voss. Ms. Hogan asked that the board to discuss the allegations made against Supervisor Leader in Ms. Voss’ resignation letter. During her statement Ms. Hogan said she had been left out of discussions and Ms. Hogan asked the supervisor about the issue of transparency.
Mr. Howard said they would need to discuss personnel issues in executive session.
The board did not call for an executive session.
Also at the board meeting:
* The board discussed the new recreation fee announced by the town, which would be $180 for the six week summer program or $35 a week. The town normally hosts a day camp program at Volunteer Park. Town residents and children from the Town of Stuyvesant may attend the program. The Village of Valatie offers to pay for up to 10 children from the village to attend the program. Valatie does does not have a program of its own.
Councilman Phil Bickerton said he had heard concerns from parents saying, “It’s a little too much, too high.”
Councilwoman Johnson said she had looked at other towns’ recreation programs and that some are charging more, but she also said she thought the increase was too high. Councilwoman Hogan called it a “huge jump.”
The board agreed to increase the fee to $150 for the summer or $30 a week. Ms. Hogan voted against the motion. Supervisor Leader said that people are excited the town is offering a summer program again this year. The program was canceled last summer due to the pandemic
* Resident Jennifer Ose-MacDonald asked about the Codes Committee, expressing her concern that information about the committee was not on the website and there is no agenda minutes for the committee’s meetings. She talked about the committee’s lack of transparency. Later in the meeting, another resident, Melissa Miller, talked about transparency on the website and minutes that are not there.
There was a discussion about committees that meet but do not take minutes. Mr. Howard talked about committees not having binding authority. Ms. Miller also asked about email addresses for board members that residents can use to contact them
* Newly appointed member to the county’s EMC (Environmental Management Council) Bill Mancini said the council is looking for nominees for the Good Earthkeeping Awards. Inquiries about the contest can be sent to .
The next Town Board meeting will be Monday, June 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Glynn Municipal Building.