Residents of Bernett Drive in Fredonia slammed a proposed solar farm on Van Buren Road during a Pomfret City Council hearing Wednesday that would collide with their properties.
Town clerk Allison Vento opened the hearing by reading a letter she received from a group of residents on the street. They said flatly that they don’t think a solar park should be built anywhere near them.
“We have significant security concerns. For example, the children in the neighborhood will be curious about the solar panels near your garden and will be tempted to explore dangerous areas near the solar panels and transformers. “ it says in the letter.
Residents also wrote that their land values were likely to decline. You quoted “Negative visual and aesthetic effects.” Forest “Would be replaced by a glaring look at an industrial solar system.” The letter claimed that even with trees planted to shield the solar panels from the property, the farm would still be partially visible, and a lack of foliage during part of the year would then make it even more noticeable.
Concerns have also been raised about rainwater drainage and the loss of natural forest and wetlands. Residents of Bernett Drive called for a number of changes, including a 12 foot high earth mountain, to the plan if it goes ahead. But they made it clear that they want the city council to deny special use permission for the project.
“This is a permissible use according to the city’s solar law”, said John Reagan of RIC Energy, the company proposing the farm. He stated that there are no substances leaching in the solar panels, there is no glare from them, and no noise can be heard outside the farm fence that is placed on the property lines.
“The project enjoys a certain natural shielding, which we will improve through special plantings.” he said.
Reagan then revealed that the farm’s proposed layout had been revised due to concerns from city officials and local residents. “We have significantly reduced the number of solar panels and increased the setbacks significantly.” he said. They now suggest keeping all equipment 60 feet from the yard fence. The residents of Bernett Drive requested a 60-meter setback in their letter.
Reagan also assured that drainage problems in the area will not be exacerbated by the solar farm, according to the RIC Energy study.
As for the berm “We have investigated and recommend that there be no berm.” he said. The berm would require a lot of material, it would disrupt the wetlands that residents want to protect, and it could worsen drainage problems in the neighborhood. Reagan said existing trees and planned plantings should be enough to shield the property from nearby homes.
The criticism of the plan went beyond the letter Vento read. Both Pomfret residents and officials raised deep concerns at the hearing, whether in person or on Zoom.
“I will be able to see these boards no matter what you put in there.” said Zen Olow. He added that disused solar farms in Niagara County have been classified as fallow land.
Reagan replied, “We are obliged to maintain the vegetation cover during the project period”, and the country would be returned to its original state after the solar park was closed. He said he didn’t understand Olow’s comment about the wasteland.
Another local resident reiterated the letter’s concerns about property values. In addition, Brett Christy of the Pomfret Town Board stated that the project would include eight power poles that were not included in the post-construction view submitted in the proposal. A RIC representative who zoomed in confirmed that the utility poles would be needed as a connection point to National Grid equipment on Van Buren Road.
“I can’t believe it, with all the empty fields in Fredonia you chose this area.” Linda Granata told the RIC representatives. “It makes no sense.”
Granata and other residents said they had not been informed of anything by RIC, they only received communications from the city about the public hearing. Reagan – who was clearly on the defensive at the end of the hearing – said the company had sent out mailings and that he would be looking into when they would be sent.
The municipal council was not able to decide on a permit for the solar park on Wednesday. That’s because the matter had to be referred to the Chautauqua County Planning Board, which has 30 days from the date of the transfer to respond with its comments. Vento said she has not yet received such a response.
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