A public hearing on the solar farm proposed for 262 Libertyville Road on the Gardiner/New Paltz border generated more light than heat, with few attendees raising objections to the plan by Lumens Holdings 3, LLC to build a commercial solar array on the 49.1-acre parcel abutting the Field of Dreams sports park. At its February 23 meeting, the Gardiner Planning Board answered questions raised by residents, closed the public hearing, declared itself lead agency on the project’s State Environmental Quality Review and made considerable progress on its full environmental assessment.
One close neighbor expressed concern that headlights from trucks accessing the site at night might shine into the windows of his house, given the orientation of a service road that forms a dogleg to avoid a wetland area. A representative for the developer pointed out that “green screening” for the property line facing the neighbor was “already in the plan,” and town attorney Dave Brennan said, “It would be a rare day that a technician would have to go out after dark.”
Another Gardiner resident questioned whether Lumens Holdings had committed to pay for the costs of upgrades to the local electrical grid to handle the additional power to be generated by the solar array. Planning Board chair Paul Colucci termed the query “irrelevant” to the board’s role in the approval process, and Brennan agreed that putting funds in escrow with Central Hudson for the purpose of making such upgrades was “the applicant’s burden.”
Brennan then walked the board through the Environmental Assessment Form, noting only three questions that could not immediately be answered in the negative in terms of potential significant impact. A recent memorandum from the Department of Environmental Conservation raised the question of whether the construction and tree removal would do any harm to bald eagle habitat, requiring a written response from the developer. Lumens Holdings must also file an archaeology report with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which Brennan noted is routine in any area with a long history of human settlement. There will also be some noise impacts during the construction phase, but they will be temporary.
“So, we need some additional information on plants and animals and archaeological resources,” Brennan summed up. “I suspect we’re headed toward a Neg Dec” – a Negative Declaration, meaning no significant environmental impact – “but we have to document it.”