Board nixes solar farm plan

Published 3:00 am Friday, February 17, 2017

The Troy Board of Adjustments denied a special exception request Thursday that would have allowed Eagle Solar Group LLC. to build part of a solar farm in residential zoning.

About three dozen residents showed up at the meeting to voice their concerns about an industry moving into their “back yards.”

Many of the residents raised concerns about the effect the industry would have on the aesthetics in the area.

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David Herskovits, a representative for the company, said that farm would look like a forest from the neighborhood.

“We’ll have 40-foot trees that should hide the panels, which are 11 feet at the maximum,” Herskovits said. “I don’t want to put solar panels in your face.”

Residents at the meeting said they weren’t convinced.

“We’ll see the solar panels from the hilltop where our house is,” said area resident Cecilia Meeks. “We’ll see the glare from them.”

Herskovits countered that the panels are meant to absorb light, and said that they produce less glare than glass on a house.

“We have five projects being built near airports and all of them have had zero impact on ocular deterioration for the pilots and for the people in the surrounding homes,” Herskovits said.

Residents bandied about other concerns with the proposed 100-foot buffer of which 40 feet would be trees and 60 feet would be a setback. Some residents said the tree buffer would not prevent the panels from being seen during the winter time. Herskovits responded that a brick wall could be built around the site to ensure that the panels could not be seen in the winter.

Still, several residents in attendance expressed that they were not convinced.

Despite Herskovits attesting that he has no reason to believe that the industry would negatively affect property values due to its comparatively quite and pollution-free nature, many residents brought forward concerns that it would adversely affect their values.

Resident Matthew Ellis gave an anecdote of a friend looking to move into the area.

“I had a friend contact me that said ‘I really hope they don’t put those solar panels in. I wish I had known that before I put an offer in on a house’,” he said.

Herskovits said that once construction was completed it would not have any changes that would affect property values.

Eloise Pennington said she was concerned about health issues.

“My husband John is a veteran that suffers with heart trouble related to Agent Orange,” Pennington said. “What are the long-term effects on health?”

Herskovits said he did not believe the project had any adverse health complications.

Yet another concern brought forward by residents is the amount of traffic the project would bring through the area during its construction phase.

Residents noted that Butter and Egg Road, where the proposed entrance would be placed, is used by children to walk to school and by a local track team to train. Ellis asked that the entrance be moved to U.S. Highway 29 instead if the board had approved the request.

Herskovits said the company would work around the issues with the community if given the chance.

The residents also had questions about what benefit the industry would bring to the city.

Herskovits pointed out that the company was denied a sales tax abatement on $34.5 million, which means that the company coming would inject nearly $3 million into the local economy.

However, the crowd expressed displeasure to learn that the City of Troy would not be benefitting from the power production and when Herskovits told the audience that he could not say whom the company would be selling to.

After an hour of back-and-forth between the residents and Herskovits, the board voted 4-0 to deny the request, to applause from the attending residents.

Herskovits requested the board to table the decision to potentially work further with the community, but the board denied his request and moved forward with the motion.