October 21, 2021

Groton board blocks solar project

Solar Panel Stock photo

Metro Creative stock image

GROTON — The Groton Town Board shot down a proposed 5 megawatt solar project Tuesday night, after board members objected to a requested payment in lieu of taxes agreement.

The board was scheduled to review a preliminary site plan for the 40.3-acre, 5 megawatt project proposed by the Rochester-based Abundant Solar Power. The project would have installed 2,254 solar tables with 27,048 solar panels covering 13.2 acres at 704 Cortland Road, according to the project application.

This was the latest iteration of a project that was a year in the making, said Dan Spitzer, the attorney representing Abundant Solar. But to build the project,
company representatives said they needed to secure a PILOT agreement with the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency. The IDA, however, said any PILOT agreement for the Groton project would first require the town board to adopt a resolution in support of the IDA negotiating the agreement.

That resolution was put before the town board Wednesday, and it was promptly shot down, 4-1, with only board member Crystal Young voting in favor of it.

Board member Brian Klumpp said he thought the PILOT agreement was unfair to businesses in town that don’t get tax breaks.

“It takes away the fairness with a capital F,” he said.

Board member Richard Gamel said he didn’t think the PILOT would bring enough tax money to the town; he also objected to the town’s lack of control over negotiations.

Passing the resolution in support of the PILOT negotiation “is like handing you (Abundant Solar) the keys to the candy store,” Gamel said. “And in the end we may end up with a pocketful of candy, or we may end up with the worst-case scenario.”

John Benson, who owned the land where the project would have been built, was surprised and definitely not pleased with the board’s decision.

“I wasn’t expecting them to shoot it right down like that,” he said. “I’m not happy. They’re shooting themselves in the foot. They could have made a lot more money than what I’m paying (in property taxes). They got nothing to lose.”

The proposed project would have allowed nearby residents to obtain discounted electricity from the solar farm. Some current or proposed projects in Cortland County — such as the 15-megawatt project now under construction in Lapeer, or the two 5-megawatt projects proposed for Riley Road in Cortlandville — are similarly structured.

Abundant Solar Power is the same company that proposed a solar project at the Cortland County landfill, which was rejected by the Cortland County Legislature.