Darrigo solar farm presented their application to have a site in the Town of Newburgh at a recent planning board meeting.
The project will be located on 86 Lakeside Road. The project is a five-megawatt solar farm. Formerly at the site, there was a hazardous waste site. The waste site was covered and is being monitored. The presentation was led by Michael Morgante of Ardent Consulting Engineers, and Jeff Lease of John J. Lease realtors. Both are project principals.
The solar farm hopes to use existing resources in construction. There are three access points shown on the plan. Three entrances are used to minimize the gravel surface entrance on the site. “The idea was to try to utilize what we had to access different parts of the site,” said Michael Morgante, Ardent Consulting Engineers. “While also minimizing impermeable surfaces. So, in this case, stone surfaces on that site.”
The project will have a 50-foot landscape buffer composed of trees, while there will be 50 feet cleared setback. According to Morgante, there needs to be a 50-foot clearance for the solar panels.
In a tense moment, Planning Board Chairman John P. Ewasutyn read a letter written by an unnamed town councilman raising concerns over the project after sitting through a previous presentation given in front of the town council.
“I am concerned with the amount of tree clearing on the site,” read Ewasutyn. “When Jeff Lease came to us in the beginning, he said the panels would all be in the open field areas. Seems he is clearing up approximately 68 percent of the property. So, I know you said you have to clear what you have to clear for the panels. The question is are you going to honor what you originally stated to the town board?”
According to the letter, Lease allegedly originally said there’d be a 24-foot buffer.
Lease responded to Ewasutyn in an attempt to clear up miscommunications. “I suggested that we use a 50-foot buffer, not 24” said Lease. “There’s been a mistake made. 24 was never part of any of the plans. It was just a mistake. It’s always been a 50-foot tree buffer.”
“When you first came to us [at the Town Council work session], you [Lease] utilized your own fielded areas for the solar panels,” said Town Councilman Jim Presutti in response to Lease. “Now you’re clearing 68 percent of that property. That’s my concern.”
Lease said he has drawings from earlier planning board meetings. “All of the drawings show the solar panels in a very similar arrangement to this right here,” said Lease gesturing to the plan. “So, it was never going to be limited to only to the open fields. So, if I gave the impression; I’m mistaken. I’m sorry Jim. It was never there; it was beyond it [the fields].”
He intended to communicate that the panels will take a great part of the fields, but clearing will still happen. “I did not make it clear how much would be cleared,” said Lease. “Because I did not know how big the panel arrangement was going to be.”
The plan has already been approved by the Zoning Board of Amendments (ZBA). Lease said he’s already done a town hall meeting with the neighbors of the site using the same drawings of the plan.
According to Lease, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) was the only agency that responded to the lead agency request circulation. But a lead agency has not been established.
Although the miscommunication was cleared up, concerns were still raised over the buffer, and other architectural issues. Concern was still expressed over the number of trees to be cleared. Concerns were also raised over the impact on endangered species like the Indiana bats.
According to Planning Board Attorney Dominic Cordisco, the DEC has deemed the site culturally significant. As a result, permits cannot be issued until the State Historic Preservation Office finishes their evaluation of the project.
Cordisco also suggested that the project be referred to the local and state Port Authority for further review.