The Farmington Zoning Board of Appeals Monday heard arguments from both sides regarding a requested variance for a proposed 7-megawatt solar project that covers approximately 40 acres of farmland.
Delaware River Solar has proposed the site, located at the southwest corner of Yellow Mills Road and Fox Road on land owned by local farmers Roger and Carol Smith.
There are still serious hurdles for the proposal to become a reality. Based upon New York state and utility regulations, these solar farms must be sited on separate parcels of land. The Planning Board must approve the subdivision of the parcel, and the Zoning Board of Appeals is considering the request for a variance of the required setbacks. The reduced setbacks are being requested between the solar farms, along internal property lines, to reduce the overall area they take up, and to expand the setbacks from the road and other properties.
“We are requesting the variance so that we can bring the solar panels in towards the center of the properties, which would actually leave a greater distance from any of the nearby property owners,” said Daniel Compitello, project developer for Delaware River Solar.
According to Compitello, the proposal as it stands currently meets the town’s requirement of 180 feet from the exterior property lines, if the Zoning Board of Appeals grants the variance for the subdivided interior property lines of the three parcels, the panels would be consolidated further and drop back to 412 feet from the nearest property.
The proposed solar farm is being met with opposition from community members. During the Nov. 7 Planning Board meeting, community members had to wait in the hallway because over 125 people showed up to voice their concerns.
“We’re talking monumental decisions here,” said Jim Falanga, a neighbor to the proposed facility and opponent of the project. “This will be an eyesore of 22,000 panels covering the area of 22 football fields over 40 acres being dumped on us for 35 years.”
Falanga said he does not trust Delaware River Solar and met with the project landowners in July after he saw a surveyor at work. According to Falanga, the project was initially explained to him as an 8-acre, 2.3-megawatt solar project and has now grown to 40-plus acres and 7 megawatts.