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Town eyes solar farm moratorium

Johnstown Town Board members discussed a possible moratorium on solar farms during their meeting on Monday. Shown are from left, Councilman Don Van Deusen, Councilman Walter Lane, and Councilwoman Kim Goodemote. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

JOHNSTOWN — As solar farms continue to pop up throughout the town, councilmembers are considering adopting a moratorium on solar farms to address their concerns.

The town board discussed a possible moratorium on solar farms during its regular meeting on Monday to prevent them from being built in areas they shouldn’t be.

Town attorney Leah Everhart said it will be to see whether or not the town can regulate solar farms.

“For a moratorium you have to decide which projects are affected by it and which have progressed far enough along in the process to not be affected by it,” Everhart said.

She said the submission of a special use permit would be the “division line” between that deciding factor.

If a moratorium on solar farms is adopted, it would prevent anyone from submitting any application for a solar farm and from constructing a project that is not pending before the planning board as a special use permit.

If you adopt any moratorium, whether it’s about solar farms or anything else, Everhart said she would recommend the town start the process quickly thereafter to talk about zoning changes they would want to make and identify any issues.

“A moratorium isn’t to stop a project from moving forward, because it’s not specific to one project, it’s really to address a concern that solar farms are becoming too prevalent in the town and are being built in places that might not be appropriate to be built,” Everhart said.

Supervisor Jack Wilson said the county recently passed a local law to opt out of automatic state law tax exemptions for solar farms.

“The county just got so fed up with just trying to stay on top of [solar farms] and every time one gets developed, they’re no sooner in operation and they sell them, then you have to go back and go through the whole process all over again with them because the contract that you had was with a previous company, now you have to generate new one,” Wilson said. “The attorney got so tired of chasing them around, the county opted out of the tax exempt status.”

Through a moratorium, the town would be working to regulate solar farms through its zoning laws to define where a solar farm can and can’t be built.

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