Fulton County officials won’t weigh in on solar farms

Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty, standing, shows off a site plan for a solar panel project on Hales Mills Road Tuesday morning to the Fulton County Planning Board at the Fort Johnstown Annex in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Planning Board on Tuesday remained neutral on a proposed town of Johnstown solar farm project. But county officials also commented on the alleged garish appearance of solar panels.

“The aesthetics of them are awful,” said county Senior Planner Sean Geraghty.

The county board on Tuesday at the Fort Johnstown Annex voted to remain neutral, or stay out of ruling on a proposed special permit for a solar farm proposed along Hales Mills Road. The project is currently going through the Johnstown Town Planning Board.

Geraghty said Hales Mills Solar LLC, also known as Nexamp Inc. of Boston, Mass., wishes to construct a 6.5 megawatt DC solar farm. It would be located along the east side of Hales Mills Road — between County Highway 107 and Route 29.

The property is owned by Larry and Bonnie Hollenbeck, who will be leasing the property to Nexamp, Geraghty said. Access to the farm will be directly off Hales Mills Road.

As part of its state General Municipal Law Review of the project, county planning board members saw no regional impact and decided not to vote yes or no on the project, but some county officials expressed displeasure at solar panel projects, which are very popular these days.

“If you can see them from the road, they’re ugly,” said board member John Kessler.

Geraghty said so many solar projects are being proposed these days that local planners are taking notice of the need to obscure them.

“I think they’re really going to focus in on the landscapes,” he said.

He said one such project proposed for next month may be required to provide “more extensive landscaping” before it comes to fruition.

Geraghty said regulations regarding solar farms are already on the books and projects must adhere, or risk not having them approved.

“They clearly state they must provide a visual barrier,” he said.

Geraghty said he believes the town of Johnstown has “had enough” of some solar projects. But he said they remain money-making ventures in Fulton County.

“There’s at least half a dozen of these proposed,” he said. “They’re popping up all over.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.