Karen Pace looked out her kitchen window at the vacant acres of farmland stretching out behind her home on Ridgeview Avenue home in Cortland. Two proposed side-by-side, 5-megawatt solar power farms on the Cortlandville land would ruin it, Pace said.
“I guess in the future I will have to decide which panels I want to look at,” Pace said. “Panels we see from our front porch or panels we see from our back deck.”
The farmland behind Pace’s home is filled with farmers crops every year sometimes corn, sometimes soybeans but farmers haven’t missed a year since Pace and her husband built their home 33 years ago, she said.
The solar project, on 75 acres of a 113-acre property owned by Lawrence G. Hill III, would include solar arrays, transformers, inverters, access roads, utility poles and a security fence, according to the application.
“The solar project is $1.3 million of tax revenue for the town and the county,” Hill said. “We need this revenue for our community to be strong and $1.3 million is nothing to push aside.”
But several residents along Ridgeview Avenue disapprove of the project and expressed their concerns to the Cortlandville Planning Board before its 4-0 vote Feb. 25 that the project would cause significant environmental damage.
David Spotts, a manager with Summit Solar Capital, the project developer, noted the plan has been changed to reduce visibility to residents with a 15-foot tall visual buffer, potentially created from trees.
“We built this home for the view of the farmland,” Pace said. “We were told it could one day be developed into home developments, but solar panels were not discussed.”
“People never came to me to ask because they were so upset with what happened with Mr. Stevens, they wouldn’t communicate with me,” Hill said.
The previous owner, James Stevens III, was responsible for flood damage to St. Mary’s Cemetery in 2012 after attempting to redirect runoff from the property, the state concluded.
Two weeks before the solar panel project was proposed, Pace and Hill spoke; Hill shared his plan to construct a residential street running through the farmland.
“Coming in, I felt that something was awry in telling us a street would be filled with homes,” Pace said.
“The income from it will help me, I’m not going to deny there’s an income,” Hill said. “The field has been vacant and agricultural for 100 years. It will just sit there and be farmland and the city doesn’t get nothing because it’s agricultural.”
When it comes to the neighbors, Hill said he thinks it’s getting better.
“The solar part blew me out of the water with people not wanting it,” Hill said. “It will help our town and our community I don’t know what else I can do to satisfy these people.”