By Caitlin Croft

The November meeting of the Ellicottville Town Board opened with a public hearing regarding the proposed solar amendment. Currently, in the zoning there is no mention of solar, which makes it not permitted in all zoning districts.

A company had approached the town about a potential solar farm to be located off Sommerville Valley. From this presentation, the board charged a solar committee to look into potential options. After the committee reported back to the board their thoughts and the board charged the planning board with one representative from the town board and zoning board of appeals to draft a proposed amendment.

The amendment touches on three classes of solar projects: Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. Tier 1 are small scale and the power is used onsite these would be allowed in all districts.

Tier 2 would consist of ground-mounted units not to exceed 2,000 square feet and for onsite consumption. They would be allowed in the Agricultural Residential (AR) district and Low Density (LD) district. With a Special Use Permit (SUP) they are permitted in the remaining districts.

The last, Tier 3, are solar farms or utility-scale projects. They would only be allowed in AR and LD districts excluding the sewer & water district with a SUP. These types of solar are used for off-site consumption, i.e. the power generated in sent back into the system.

There are some guidelines, such as the layout must follow the natural grade of the land, 100-foot front, side and rear setbacks, decommissioning plan and bond or form of securing payment, no advertising, all power lines be underground and more.

The goal is to promote solar initiatives without it disturbing the character of this rural community. Lastly, note if zoning requirements are not put into place a project could increase the size of the solar farm and go over the head of the town board and planning board.

The public sentiments spoke to mainly visual impacts and concerns of diminishing property

value for surrounding parcels. It was asked if a 100 foot setback is enough to offset any visual impacts.

“We moved to a dead-end road to enjoy the views,” stated Patrick Burke.

There was a question of how much say surrounding neighbors had regarding projects. They were advised that just as they are here now voicing their opinion this is regarding the amendment only, not an actual proposed project. If legislation is put into place and applications come in, decisions will be made on a case by case basis and there will be separate public hearings for each project when they come in.

There were some that are not opposed to solar but feel it needs to be cautiously looked at. 

After discussion on how to proceed with the Solar Zoning Amendment, the town board voted to send the amendment back to the planning board for further review.