SENECA FALLS –– A special use permit was approved Thursday for Cypress Creek Renewables of Santa Monica, Calif. to build and operate two large solar panel farms on Route 318 and Gravel Road.
The town Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-2 to approve the special use permit needed to build and operate the solar farm in an agricultural zone.
Voting for the permit were ZBA members Dan Emmo, Matt Blair and Joseph Cordero. Voting no were chairwoman Marie Scoles and Susan Sauvageau.
Gravel Road residents John and Laura VanNiel and some six others spoke against the special use permit.
“Although the vote didn’t go the way I wanted, I felt our voices were heard by the ZBA,’’ John VanNiel said. The VanNiels, who live next to the Gravel Road solar site, are concerned about the size of the project, the miles of fencing, motorization of the panels and loss of farmland.
Speaking in favor was Thomas Dalton, whose mother, Mary Dalton, owns the Gravel Road property that Cypress Creek would lease for the solar farm.
“Cypress Creek Renewables believes solar energy makes the world cleaner and healthier. From development to construction to operation, we strive to create projects that would benefit communities for decades,’’ said spokesman Jeff McKay.
“We are thrilled at this opportunity to be able to bring clean and affordable energy to the homes and businesses of Seneca Falls,’’ he said.
The project earlier received approval of the site plan from the town Planning Board. That body issued a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, stating that they feel the projects would not create an adverse impact on the environment.
The two projects would involve 65 acres and rows of thousands of solar panels that would be motorized to follow the sun’s east-to-west west movement each day. The panels would generate an estimated 4 megawatts of electricity, which would be added to the power grid at the nearby Hyatt Road substation.
Local customers can subscribe to procure the solar electricity and get credits toward their electricity bill.
The Gravel Road project would be called Donati Solar and the Route 318 project is called Sangolqui Solar. The company has applied to the Seneca Falls school district for a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) agreement for both projects. That is on Thursday’s school board agenda.
The company timetable calls for the panels to be operational by the end of 2019.