Arkwright plans another vote on solar zoning law
By BRADEN CARMEN
ARKWRIGHT — After 2022 closed with a contentious meeting featuring a rejection of a proposed solar energy zoning law, the Town of Arkwright is prepared for a do-over.
“When it came to solar zoning, I didn’t sell my idea,” said Arkwright Town Supervisor Brian McAvoy at the January meeting of the Arkwright Town Council. McAvoy pushed for approval of a solar energy zoning law at the December meeting of the Town Council, only to have the law not have enough votes to pass.
“My intention is to bring it back for a vote in February, and we put a pin in it one way or another, we either accept the zoning or we won’t,” said McAvoy.
McAvoy spoke for approximately 15 minutes with input from Town Board member Chris Jackson, who voted against the law because of concerns with setback requirements, and Larry Ball, who was not present for the vote.
McAvoy spoke about the reasons for a town to enact zoning laws and clarified that a vote for or against solar zoning has no impact on whether solar energy is allowed in the town itself, but only to the regulations the town sets on solar energy systems should they be installed in the town.
“When people think we’re courting solar, that’s a mistake. This isn’t about courting solar. New York state is keen on solar. Whether or not solar comes to Arkwright won’t be an Arkwright decision, it will be a developer and a landowner’s decision. The board’s decision is really how to regulate that solar should it come to Arkwright,” said McAvoy. “I think that people think us talking about it is that we’re talking about utility scale solar and we’re out courting the state. No, there’s nothing like that going on.”
Regarding the possible avenues for solar energy in the town even if a solar zoning law is passed, McAvoy explained three different scales of solar and how the regulations would apply.
“From an individual solar perspective … we’re pretty easy – it’s basically setbacks and ensuring they follow building codes, ensuring it’s done safely and that the fire people know about it.
We don’t push on that too much,” said McAvoy. “If we didn’t do anything else, we could continue with individual solar just the way we are. … If you go to the far other end of the scale, what you’d call Utility Scale Solar – over 25 megawatts – there’s very little that local municipalities do about that. … Nobody is talking to Arkwright about something like that.”
McAvoy then described community solar as the “middle range” of the three options. He claimed the town occasionally gets a call from solar developers who show interest in installing a solar energy system and is asked for what the town’s laws on solar zoning are. “Right now, we don’t have anything that governs that,” said McAvoy. “The next guy who calls … the answer we have to give is we don’t have anything.”
Also addressed in the meeting by McAvoy was why he does not support a law entirely prohibiting community solar in the town. McAvoy said, “The main reason I won’t do it is I don’t believe a municipality has the right to tell somebody they can’t do a legal activity on their own land. I would never bring that before this board.”
McAvoy also explained creating a law that is deemed too restrictive would likely not hold up in court.
“I’m going to come back in February with the same law and I’m going to ask you to please pass it,” said McAvoy. “The only reason to not pass it would be if you don’t want any government around solar. Whether or not it comes in isn’t our choice, it’s going to be the market’s choice. … If you think this law is too restrictive, don’t vote for this law. If you want a reasonable starting point to manage solar coming to Arkwright if it happens, I would think this is a good law to put in place.”
The town is also prepared to discuss short-term rental zoning in future meetings, as well. McAvoy said after speaking with the town’s attorney Joe Calimeri, the town plans to move forward with drafting a law, but with the intent of not entirely restricting short-term rental properties in Arkwright.
“My intent is not to kibosh it, but to just ensure that it’s done responsibly and safely and within reason,” said McAvoy. “I don’t think anybody has done it here irresponsibly, but we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Before any short-term rental law comes up for a vote, the town would need to hold a public hearing on the law. To this point, one has not yet been scheduled.
The next meeting of the Arkwright Town Council is scheduled for Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arkwright Town Hall.