The Planning Board passes a resolution noting it has received all the environmental information it needs

FARMINGTON — After approximately five months of delays, the Farmington Town Planning board unanimously voted in agreement that it has all the necessary environmental information to move forward in the decision-making process for the Smith Solar Farm project proposed by Delaware River Solar.

The board Wednesday passed a resolution acknowledging that it had received all requested information and suspended the public hearing to begin discussions on the environmental impact.

The proposed 7-megawatt solar facility on Yellow Mills Road would convert approximately 30 acres of prime farmland into solar arrays. The Smith family would continue to raise cattle on their additional land.

“This is the first final step of SEQR  (State Environmental Quality Review) to move forward,” said Planning Board Chairman Ed Hemminger.

Prior to the motion being passed, opponents again spoke against the proposed 21,000-solar-panel project, including a Rochester attorney hired by the project opponents.

“As part of its determination of significance, a lead agency must complete Part 2 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF). This form helps lead agencies to identify potential adverse environmental impacts. Here, a review of the Part 2 FEAF questions demonstrates that the Project may have the potential for significant adverse impacts to prime agricultural farmland, surface water, groundwater, drainage, impacts on community character and plans, and traffic," stated Frances Kabat, an attorney with the Zoghlin Group. “Consequently, the proposed action may have a significant adverse impact requiring a positive declaration of environmental significance and preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).”

Of note was a request by the Planning Board to Delaware River Solar to complete a geotechnical report due to concern as to where the water table is in relationship to the solar project. Additional information was officially requested by the board on the impact on the land, impact on agricultural resources, impact on aesthetic resources and consistency with community character.

“The project will sever and fragment critical masses of farmland with non-farm uses. The proposed action converts 30 acres of prime agricultural farmland into a seven megawatt industrial scale solar facility, requiring the creation of an access road, burying of electric cables, installation of a steel post support structure for 21,000 solar arrays, construction of a concrete pad for each solar system and installation of inverter and transformer equipment,” said Kabat. “Therefore, it is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts will occur because the project’s parcel will be split between the existing operation and an industrial solar facility, which is a non-farm use.”

A detailed response by Delaware River Solar is due to the Planning Board by May 30 in order to be ready for discussion at the June 5 meeting.

Not all community input was negative.

"I just can’t believe all of you are telling someone else what to do with their land," said a woman in the audience. "Solar is all over, it's whats coming, and you better get used to it.”