A 282,000-square-foot solar carport may be coming to RPW Group’s office park at 1133 Westchester Avenue in White Plains.
At the Dec. 6 Common Council meeting, residents voiced their concerns during a public hearing held in relation to Voda Solar Resources, LLC’s proposal for the site. Those addressing the Common Council expressed worries about increased ambient noise that exceeds the city’s set limits, a negative impact on homeowner’s property values and obstructing visual aesthetics.
“I’m in favor of renewable energy, but I object to this proposal primarily for three reasons,” said Matt Siegel, who lives on Woodbrook Road near the proposed site. “It will be a huge eyesore, which is the last thing that we want for all the surrounding neighborhoods. Second, it stands to raise existing ambient noise levels, which are already beyond White Plains’ limits. And third, it will significantly reduce property values and, in turn, tax revenues.”
Siegel cited a 2020 University of Rhode Island (URI) Department of Environmental and Economic Resources study, which looked at the impact of solar energy on more than 400,000 Massachusetts and Rhode Island home prices in high-density areas like White Plains.
“This URI study covered over 400,000 real estate transactions occurring within three miles of utility sites after they were installed and included the following: homes within one mile of the solar installations lost 1.7 percent of their value compared to those between one and three miles, and properties within a tenth of a mile depreciated by an average of seven percent,” Siegel said.
There are approximately 65 homes in closest proximity to the proposed solar carport, Siegel said, and 1,500 homes in the surrounding area.
“Those 65 homes in closest proximity would each lose $50,000 in value, and the 1,500 homes in total would lose $20 million or more right after approval is granted. This would, in turn, lead to lower White Plains property tax revenues to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year,” Siegel said. “I question whether these losses would be exceeded by the economic benefits to White Plains, which I have yet to see.”
Jodi Siegel, president of the Ridgeway at White Plains Homeowner’s Association who also resides on Woodbrook Road, expressed concerns that the proposed solar carport would exceed White Plains municipal codes and zoning ordinances, which set site noise limits on external devices, equipment and machinery at 55 decibels.
“On multiple occasions during the past couple of weeks, we have measured the ambient noise outside our home at 57 to 58 decibels on average, and we have a neighbor who has had higher readings,” Siegel said. “We’re already above the White Plains mandatory decibel noise cap, and these noise levels have gotten worse since RPW removed 10 acres of trees for The Flats project.”
Siegel said that while the solar panels themselves do not emit any sound, the inverters that convert power from DC to AC and the transformers, which increase the voltage for easier transmission onto the power grid, emit considerable noise.
“In reviewing the full environmental assessment form filed on behalf of this proposed project, the response to the question when asked about ambient noise impact was no,” Siegel said.
“In addition to responding no to the noise question, they also responded no to whether there are any schools nearby, when, in fact, the German School abuts the property and there is a daycare center on-site.”
With no sound or visual barriers in Voda Solar Resources’ proposal to address the sonic and aesthetic impacts to neighbors, Siegel said the proposal does not demonstrate an understanding or appreciation of the neighborhood’s needs.
“General Colin Powell said that to build trust, companies need a purpose beyond profit, and this proposal does not consider all the stakeholders,” Siegel said. “As the Common Council evaluates the proposal, I ask you to consider the impact of this project, given the existing White Plains noise codes and ordinances, and protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”
The public hearing was adjourned until Jan. 3.
Bailey has journalism experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties and New York City on topics related to LGBTQ+ issues, women’s rights, climate change, the environment, and local politics. They have been a full-time reporter with Examiner Media since July 2021. Read more details from Bailey’s bio here. Read Bailey’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/baileyhosfelt/