By BRADEN CARMEN
ARKWRIGHT — After being shut down by a contentious meeting to reject a proposed 2022 solar energy zoning ordinance, the town of Arkwright is set to rebuild.
“I’m not sold on solar zoning,” Arkwright Town Supervisor Brian McAvoy said at the Arkwright Town Council’s January meeting. McAvoy pushed for approval of the solar energy zoning ordinance at the December City Council meeting, but failed to garner enough votes to pass the law.
“My intention is to bring it back to the ballot in February and we either put a pin on it one way or another, we either accept the rezoning or we don’t,” McAvoy said.
McAvoy spoke for about 15 minutes, with input from Town Board member Chris Jackson, who voted against the legislation because of concerns about setback requirements, and Larry Ball, who abstained.
McAvoy talked about the reasons why a city adopts zoning laws and clarified that a vote for or against solar zoning does not affect whether or not solar is allowed in the city itself, but rather the rules the city sets for solar energy systems. will be installed in the city.
“When people think we’re doing solar energy, that’s a mistake. It’s not about dating the sun. New York State is showing interest in solar energy. Whether or not solar comes to Arkwright will not be an Arkwright decision, it will be a developer and landowner decision. The council’s decision is really how to regulate solar if it comes to Arkwright,” McAvoy said. “I think people think we’re talking about this, that we’re talking about utility-scale solar and we’re pandering to the state. No, that’s not happening.”
As for possible avenues for solar energy in the city even if the solar district law is passed, McAvoy explained the three different scales of solar and how the regulations would apply.
“From an individual solar perspective … we’re pretty easy — it’s basically failures and making sure they follow building codes, that it’s done safely, and that firefighters are aware of it.
We don’t push it too hard,” McAvoy said. “If we did nothing else, we could continue as we are with individual solar. … If you go to the other end of the scale, what you call Utility Scale Solar – over 25 megawatts – there’s very little local municipalities are doing about it. … Nobody talks to Arkwright about anything like that.
McAvoy further described community solar as the “middle range” of the three options. He claimed the city sometimes gets calls from solar developers interested in installing a solar system and asking what the city’s solar zoning laws are. “Right now, we don’t have anything driving that,” McAvoy said. “The next guy who calls… the answer we have to give is we don’t have anything.”
The meeting also discussed why McAvoy does not support legislation that would completely ban solar energy in the city. McAvoy said: “The main reason I don’t do it is because I believe a municipality has no right to tell someone they can’t legally operate on their land. “I would never bring this before this council.”
McAvoy also explained that creating a law deemed too restrictive would not hold up in court.
“I’m going to come back in February with the same bill and I’m going to ask you to pass it,” McAvoy said. “The only reason not to pass it is if you don’t want any government around solar. It will be the choice of the market, not our choice. … If you think this law is too restrictive, don’t vote for it. If you want a reasonable starting point for managing the arrival of the sun at Arkwright, I think this is a good law if it happens.
The city is also open to discussing short-term rental zoning at future meetings. After speaking with city attorney Joe Calimeri, McAvoy said the city plans to move forward with the bill, but with the intention of not completely restricting short-term rental properties in Arkwright.
“My intention is not to offend him, just to make sure it’s done responsibly, safely and sanely,” McAvoy said. “I don’t think anyone is doing it irresponsibly here, but we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Before any short-term rental ordinance comes up for a vote, the city must hold a public hearing on the ordinance. To this point, one has yet to be determined.
The next meeting of Arkwright Town Council is scheduled for February 13 at 7.30pm at Arkwright Town Hall.
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