Cortlandt Pumps the Brakes on Solar Farm Projects

We are part of The Trust Project
By Rick Pezzullo

The Cortlandt Town Board voted unanimously last week to pass a nine-month moratorium on Tier 3 Ground Mounted Solar Farms.

Although board members maintained the move was not targeted at slowing down a controversial solar farm within a nearly 58-acre forest on two parcels along Red Mill Road and the end of Mill Court, the public hearing that preceded the vote was dominated by passionate neighbors of the project proposed by CVE North America that urged the board to stop it in its tracks.

“People are outraged at what is being proposed,” said Rick Ribeiro, a 25-year resident of Mill Court whose backyard abuts the 58-acre forest where at least 2,800 trees would be clear cut to make room for the farm and its 9,504 solar panels.

“It’s just not right. Something is not adding up,” Juan Ramos, an eight-year resident of Mill Ct., remarked.
“I think a moratorium is a great idea,” resident Daniel Asis added. “The people that will end up paying for this will be the private citizens.”

Since Cortlandt adopted a law in 2018 allowing solar farms, the town has received five applications for Tier 3 projects. Two of those plans were withdrawn.

While expressing their support for green energy, board members stressed solar farms did not belong in residential neighborhoods.

“That’s not where they should be going. We want to find locations where they would be more appropriate,” said Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi. “We feel we are being prudent and doing the right thing.”

“It does not seem green to me to cut down trees for solar,” said Councilman Dr. Richard Becker. “We need a policy that is townwide. We need to decide where solar goes.”

Stephen Grable, an attorney for CVE, noted CVE has modified its original layout to where only 15 acres will be disturbed, along with 547 fewer trees. It also reduced the number of solar panels from what was envisioned at 11,592.

Other CVE representatives have touted the environmental benefits of producing clean energy from the 4 MW solar farm and explained the area was chosen because it is situated within the ConEdison electric utility territory. The company has also stressed the monthly electric discounts an estimated 1,061 local residents could receive by subscribing to the facility.

“Our goal is not to say this project must be approved as is,” Grable said. “We are here to say please let us go forward in trying to obtain approval. We do not believe a solar farm qualifies as a crisis condition that would legally warrant a moratorium. Our hope is to work through these issues with you.”

Others disagreed with Grable’s assessment.

“If you apply the commonsense test, it fails,” said resident John DeBenedictis.

“This is a brief timeout to make sure we get this right,” Councilman James Creighton said of the moratorium.

“We’re hoping what we do here will be a model for other communities.”

CVE has estimated the solar farm would be built in six months and has a lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.

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