Published On: June 28, 2021Categories: Gate of Heaven, News

TOP 10 QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT PLANNED COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECT AT GATE OF HEAVEN CEMETERY

As required by Town zoning the solar project will be properly screened from neighboring properties and public ways to the greatest extent possible by maintaining existing trees and vegetation as well as enhancing the existing natural screening by planting an additional 150 trees and shrubs in accordance with the Landscape Plan submitted to the Planning Board and further evidenced by the 3D visuals presented to the Planning Board. Further, as noted on the Landscape Plan, after construction is complete, CES will meet with the Town Engineer to determine if additional plantings are required to supplement the existing screening. Further, in its Negative Declaration issued 4/20/2020, the Planning Board stated that “while the solar farm will change the visual character of the Site, the change is not anticipated to result in a significant adverse impact.”

The Planning Board fully addressed the matter of the clearing of trees for the project in its Negative Declaration issued 4/20/2020 and noted that, when done in accordance with the Town’s Tree Ordinance, “while extensive,” the tree clearing “will not result in significant adverse impacts.”

The trees will be removed whether the solar project is approved or not. And the greenhouse gas offsets from the solar project are 200 times what would be sequestered by maintaining the trees over the project life of 25 years. In addition, the pollinator habitat that will replace the trees will provide valuable ecosystem services and positive climate impacts. It is also notable that Gate of Heaven Cemetery has planted over 350 new trees over the past few years and has plans to plant another 50 this year.

Panel height will be approximately 12 feet. The local zoning allows up to 15 feet.

This is NOT a change in “community character.” It is a proposed use, allowed as a matter of right under Town Code and in full compliance with the “Standards and Requirements” for arrays of ground-mounted solar panels and battery energy storage facilities set forth in the Town of Mt. Pleasant Code . Further, in its Negative Declaration issued 4/20/2020, the Planning Board stated that “while the solar farm will change the visual character of the Site, the change is not anticipated to result in a significant adverse impact.”

There are no endangered species, rare wildlife species or wildlife habitat hibernacula on the site. Further, the Planning Board determined in its Negative Declaration issued 4/20/2020 that “no threatened or endangered species of animals or the habitat of such species” at this site.

Our research shows (and there has been no contradicting evidence) that there is NOT a “wildlife corridor” on this site.

Mt. Pleasant zoning requires that “all arrays and ancillary structures shall be with fencing of a height as required per the National Electric Code standard enforced by the Town of Mount Pleasant, with a locking gate to prevent unauthorized access.” The NEC requires a 7-foot fence or a 6-foot fence with a 1-foot extension of barbed wire. CES is proposing a 7-foot fence (with no barbed wire) as is required.

The solar developer of this project, Con Ed Solutions, has submitted a number of studies and reports on a variety of subjects over the last 2+ years leading up to the May 17th Public Hearing. Those studies and reports have been reviewed by the Town Engineer, the Planning Board’s wetland consultant, its engineering consultant, and the Board itself and the information submitted has been found to be satisfactory.Further, the Town has voted a Negative Declaration indicating its satisfaction with the environmental information provided. In addition, the Town went through a very lengthy and thorough process to draft and enact Chapter 218-63.4 “Arrays of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels for the Generation of Electricity” with its very specific “Standards and Requirements” for solar projects. That process included consultation with other municipalities and state agencies and was open to, and invited input from, the public. Similar processes have taken place in cities and towns throughout New York. As of May 5, 2021, a total of 1,119 Community Distributed Generation, or “CDG” projects like this one have been approved all across New York State, for a total of 2,838 MWs of clean energy generation capacity. From the rooftops and parking lots of schools and colleges, to unused farmland, community solar projects like this are not new or unproven. They’re well-understood and part of a large number of communities across New York State. There is no need for any additional “independent study.”

As is required, the project’s storm water calculations show that there will be NO increase in storm water runoff for the 2, 10, and 100 year storm events after construction is completed. The Town Engineer has reviewed and approved those calculations. Further, in its Negative Declaration issued 4/20/2020, the Planning Board determined that the project’s Stormwater Management Plan and conditions which will be tied to the approval of the project “will assure the (project) will not result in any significant adverse impacts to surface water features.”