July 8, 2019
Attending: John Kincart, John Savoca, William LaScala, Rich Fon, Aaron Bock, Robert Garrigan
The special meeting was devoted to a discussion of the proposed Tree law and Solar Law
Mr. Tegeder reviewed how the proposed law differed from the current law and explained how the law differed from the draft law the board had reviewed last October, e.g., making thresholds more consistent with other environmental laws and clarifying what constituted a woodland.
Mr. LaScala said the proposed law “crucified” homeowners and suggested that properties of one acre or less be exempted from the law. But he also wanted the town to require property owners to remove diseased trees and he had no problem with the provision in the proposed law that would require property owners on parcels of one acres or less to get a permit to cut down trees in the buffer area along their property lines.
Mr. Kincart said that the only change needed in the current law was adding in town owned property, that property owners were taking care of their land, more education was needed for other property owners, that the proposed law would bind the board’s hands, and that he saw no evidence of clear cutting that needed to be addressed. He also argued that if the town required a property owner to pay money into a tree fund for mitigating the removal of a tree on his property, then, in effect, the town owned the tree.
In response to a letter from the attorney representing the owner of a large undeveloped parcel that suggested that the need for a tree removal permit be based on lot size and not a fixed number, e.g., more than 10, the threshold in the proposed law, Mr. Tegeder explained that a proportional law would hurt small property owners. The board discussed but rejected additional comments in the lawyer’s letter, noting that the lawyer was misconstruing some provisions in the law.
In general, the board felt that it was doing an acceptable job saving trees and requiring mitigation plans.
In response to Mr. Fon’s question that asked what had triggered the discussion of a new tree law, Mr. LaScala said it was the 2017 election. He expressed concern about whether the law could be enforced. Mr. Bock spoke about the importance of protecting woodlands. Mr. Garrigan questioned whether a permit would be need to remove poison ivy on his property.
The board voted 4-1 with Mr. Bock dissenting, to recommend a memo to the Town Board that it finds the current law adequate, repeated comments made last year on an earlier version of the law, and included a series of 8 recommended changes in the proposed law.
Showing some photographs of solar installations on commercial properties, Mr. Fon said he had no problem with canopies over parking lots as an accessory use but that he opposed large installations on otherwise undeveloped commercial property. He added that he felt the board did not have sufficient information about solar farms and that the town needed to slow down and do more research. Mr. Bock said that a middle ground was needed and suggested that installations on residential property might be acceptable if they were not seen, but he considered the 80% coverage in the proposed law to be too much. Mr. LaScala did not like the idea of a PILOT and wanted the projects taxed base don their assessed value.
The board ultimately voted 5-0 to support large scale installations on any residentially zoned property but on larger lots (a representative of the solar energy company said that the company’s minimum requirement was 5 buildable acres) and not on commercially zoned land as a primary use, that there be a preference that they be built on already disturbed land, that they comply with the town’s other laws, limit coverage to 60%, and require a visual survey.