The Ulster Town Board last week cleared the path for the proposed Cypress Creek Renewables/Landau Creek Solar project to move forward, citing a negative declaration of environmental impact after developers responded to concerns from the public.
The unanimous decision by councilmen came on Thursday, Dec. 6 at the end of a couple of busy days for the proposed solar project.
“We’ve gone through an environmental scoping session and we’ve completed an environmental review that was closed on Tuesday night at a special Town Board meeting and a negative [SEQR] declaration,” said Town Supervisor James E. Quigley III. “The planning board met shortly after the town board approved the subdivision and lot line adjustment that was necessary for the project’s siting, and passed a resolution recommending to the town board that the town board grant site plan special permit and open development approvals.”
The proposed 6-megawatt system would be comprised of two installations over roughly 64 acres on portions of three separate parcels at 2986-3040 Route 32.
Councilmen on Thursday approved a payment in lieu of taxes — Pilot — agreement of $9,000 for each of the six megawatts on the project. Quigley said while it may appear that Pilots exclusively benefit developers, there are many cases where the arrangement benefits a municipality in ways a project with no such agreement is in place. He added that the state agrees.
“The New York State government encourages all developers to enter into a Pilot agreement with the community that is hosting their facility to make a Pilot payment that is negotiated between the community and the developer,” Quigley said.
The supervisor added that Cypress Creek will also make a one-time community benefit payment to the Town of Ulster as part of the project.
“It’s to be used for environmental programs within the town,” said Quigley, adding that officials had yet to determine how best to use the payment. “It is payable upon completion and the issuance of the certificate of completion for the project.”
The estimated cost of the project is $4.35 million, and it’s expected to yield 23 full-time construction jobs over the two years it could take to complete.
Among the issues raised by the public during the review process were drainage from the site, concerns which seem to stem from a nearby 2-megawatt system built by Cypress Creek Renewables and Bluestone Solar in the Town of Kingston off Hallihan Hill Road, which local residents have said is causing damage to their properties due to an inadequate storm water drainage plan. Developers at a November public hearing said they don’t foresee similar issues on the Eddyville site.
“We designed the site so that any discharge would be less than or equal to the discharge for pre-development,” said Richard Dos Santos, project engineer. “We are removing some trees, but we are converting that to meadow which has a higher stormwater extraction.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, consultant Crystal Eggers, a senior project manager with New Jersey-based Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc., said that the solar project should not adversely impact site drainage.
“I cannot say that the development of this site will improve the conditions,” she said. “I can say that it is not expected to make the conditions any worse. There may be some improvement, I guess, because … we are either meeting or reducing the peak flow coming from each of the drainage areas from the existing condition to the proposed condition. We’re doing that through a number of ways. One is that the woods on the site are, they’re in OK shape. There’s trees, and the leaves catch the water drops when there’s leaves on the trees. And then it gets to the ground and it flows across the ground. Vegetation which acts as good pollinator, is also good at water retention.”
Eggers added that daily inspections during construction and monthly inspections and maintenance of vegetation post-construction are in the project’s plans.
At the same meeting, town planner Alan Sorensen said he didn’t believe that the project as proposed would have a significant environmental impact, and that visual concerns from nearby residents had also been addressed.
“One of the issues identified up front was potential visual impacts,” Sorensen said. “The applicant conducted a balloon test, which was publicly noticed … As a result of that there were mitigation measures that were put in place … I believe that the potential visual impacts have been mitigated to the fullest extent practical.”