The Saugerties Town Board recently approved an amendment to the Town zoning code setting new regulations regarding large solar facilities.
The board unanimously approved the amended regulations which apply to solar facilities of greater than 4,000 square feet in size that include one or more freestanding solar collector devices, solar-related equipment, along with other accessory structure and buildings including substations, electric infrastructure and transmission lines. Under the regulations, solar energy facilities will be classified as buildings for site plan review and can only be sited in low- or moderate-density residential, industrial, office/light industrial and recreation-business districts.
Town Supervisor Fred Costello emphasized that under no means can large-scale solar projects be started without going through a site plan review and approval by the Town Planning Board.
The regulations require that any solar energy facility permitted under a special-use permit shall be at least the minimum area required in the zoning district and shall not exceed 70 percent of the site.
The regs also call for a setback of 50 feet from all property lines and streets and the construction of a “wildlife fence” at least six-feet high around all equipment that is at least 25 feet back from all street and property lines. The regulations also require the fence to have five-inch by one-foot openings at the ground level spaced no more than 100 feet apart to allow small animals to get in and out. They also call for a buffer strip of natural vegetation or landscaping of a minimum dimension of at least 50 feet.
The enacted regulations also set a 25-foot height requirement for any equipment or structure on the site except when utility engineering standards require utility poles or towers connecting the facility to the distribution grid to be higher.
The facilities are also prohibited from generating noise, light, vibration or glare emanating from the facility beyond what’s permitted in the district where the facility is located.
The code also requires the facilities to take into consideration the Town’s identification of agriculture as a primary land use, the impacts of viewsheds of special importance and preservation of existing forest cover. The proposal of a solar farm in the rural hamlet of Asbury prompted efforts by the Town Historic Preservation Commission to have the hamlet designated a state and national historic landmark district.
A proposal by Family of Woodstock to locate a solar facility on the Sawyer Kill generated pushback from neighbors with the not-for-profit Executive Director Michael Berg pledging at a recent Town Board meeting to exhaust all possible alternatives before siting the facility on the Sawyer Kill.
The regulations also require an applicant to restore the site to a plan approved by the Planning Board if the facility is not completed. The owners and or operator are also required to provide financial security in an amount deemed acceptable to the Town attorney to secure the expense of dismantling the facility.
Additionally, the code forces the solar energy facility operator to notify the Code Enforcement Officer in writing immediately upon cessation of operations or abandonment of the facility and be responsible for removing it within six months of the notification.