Cypress Creek Renewables has revamped the layout of its proposed solar farm in Saugerties to reflect comments neighbors made at a town planning board meeting February 21. The new layout places the solar panels in a grouping that reduces their visual impact on the Old Kings Highway viewshed, said John Reagan of Cypress Creek, the developer. Trees will ultimately screen the panels when they grow large enough to block the view.
Neighbors at the January board meeting complained that screening, while blocking the panels, would also block the view of the mountains in the distance, one of the most beautiful views in Saugerties. Several also pointed out that the field contains several sinkholes, which could be a hazard to the proposed panels.
The panels have been moved further from the homes along Old Kings Highway to allow for more screening, Reagan said. He was filling in for Anne Waling, who has been presenting the project for Cypress Creek.
Board member Ken Goldberg said the board had seen visual simulations of the solar farm at previous meetings. “Did you redo that so we could see how the new array would compare with the old array?” he asked.
The company is working on doing so, Reagan said. Other documents must also be updated to reflect the changed layout, Reagan said. “We have not submitted that yet.” Goldberg pointed out that the board and the public could not get a real sense of the change without those simulations.
Consultant to the town planning board Dan Shuster asked whether Cypress Creek had investigated the possible presence of archaeological sites on the property. “There are some potential archaeological resources identified on the site. Will you have a qualified archaeologist do a phase-one review and site walk in order to elaborate on the available data?” he asked.
“I believe that will be completed,” Reagan said after consulting Waling’s notes.
Reagan said he had not expected the board to take action. “We just wanted to show you the progress, fully understanding that it’s on us to complete the application package, or to revise the application package, I should say, based on the new layout.” He said the revised plans and analysis should be completed by April.
There was no public discussion at the meeting Tuesday. When all the material is in, planning board chair Howard Post said, the board will hold an informational meeting. Neighbors could submit questions then.
Following the meeting, Clay Trumpbour, a neighbor, said the changes didn’t solve the problems raised at earlier meetings. “We had hoped they would use the part of the field that is screened from view from the highway,” he said. “That was the understanding the owner had when they leased the property. It is still in the most visible part of the property.”
Trumpbour suggested that the site has historical value, with a good deal of evidence of its occupation by Indians. In the spring, when the fields are being prepared for planting, flint tools and arrowheads turn up frequently, he said.
Trumpbour felt the area has many abandoned industrial sites that would be a far better fit with the proposed solar array than the Old Kings Highway site. These sites would not reduce the area of productive farmland, and would not impair the viewshed of a historic area of natural beauty.