Town gives up rights to repurchase RRA land, so solar plan may proceed

Photo courtesy Oregon DOT via Flickr.

Photo courtesy Oregon DOT via Flickr.

Last month, the Town of Ulster formally relinquished its rights to repurchase its former landfill on Frank Sottile Boulevard from the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA), a move which allows the agency and county to proceed with a planned solar energy array.

According to Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) officials, the proposed 8,300-panel solar installation could produce around 2.6 megawatts of electricity, offsetting roughly 27 percent of the county’s use. Under the plan, SolarCity, a San Mateo, Calif.-based company with five regional offices in New York, would build and own the facility, with the county purchasing electricity at a set rate.

The concept was floated at a meeting of the UCRRA in June by Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell, but the discussion was temporarily shelved because it was determined that the town would have to relinquish its rights to repurchase the 29.1-acre site. The town transferred ownership of the former landfill to the UCRRA in June 1993, but in July, Town Supervisor James Quigley III said a clause in the agreement that allows the town to buy back the site may prevent the agency from moving forward.


The clause, according to Quigley, was set up by former town board member Dick Boice to give the town the right to repurchase the land after a 20-year period for $1.

Over the summer, Quigley said the town would be willing to discuss relinquishing its buyback rights if it could be included as a partner in the solar array, but acknowledged that the idea hadn’t been met with enthusiasm from either the agency or the county. According to representatives of SolarCity, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority will only allow a single government entity to join into a solar purchase agreement, but Quigley said at the time that the issue could be settled by splitting the single project into two.

“Bottom line is, we have rights and we think they have value, so now it’s incumbent upon you to come to the table and negotiate for our rights,” said Quigley in July. “Our rights are prohibiting you from doing what you want to do … If you are willing to discuss an accommodative win-win solution here, the town is interested in discussing making it happen.”

But at a meeting last month, the board voted to sign the release of the option to repurchase the property. This week, Quigley said it was partly because the relationship between the county and the town had recently become more cooperative.

“Initially, when the proposal came from the county, we made a proposal to participate, which was rejected,” Quigley said. “With the passage of time, several other matters came up where the county was an active participant in addressing, or trying to find a solution to the town-based problems. And there was a spirit of renewed cooperation between the town and the county.”

In addition to the improved working relationship between the county and municipality, Quigley added that giving up the repurchasing rights was the right thing to do.

“By leaving the reverter clause in place, we had the potential to stop a project that had a community-based benefit,” Quigley said. “We felt it was important for us to take the high road and turn around and basically revise the business terms of the agreement that was put in place 20 years ago. It’s for the good of the community, and solar energy has a widespread benefit to society.”

Though county officials have yet to set a timetable for the completion of the solar panel array, Quigley said the logistics of having the town relinquish its repurchasing rights and giving the project a clearer path are still being worked out.

“At the present time, the lawyers are figuring out what paperwork they need the town to execute to conclude the matter,” Quigley said.