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Future of renewable energy in Niagara up for debate

Fri, May 26th 2023 11:00 am

By Timothy Chipp

Contributing Writer

The Town of Niagara Town Board called a public hearing to discuss the future of two specific renewable power-generating installations next month.

Councilmembers voted 5-0 Tuesday to schedule the public hearing regarding a proposed local law to establish a six-month moratorium on “applications, approvals and/or construction and/or installation of solar and wind energy systems and/or solar and/or wind farms and/or solar and wind energy storage systems in the Town of Niagara.”

“Some people have been asking about solar farms,” Councilman Richard Sirianni said following the vote. “I felt, and the rest of the Town Board felt, we need to sit down and talk about where we want these things.”

The public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, at Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.

Sirianni last spoke publicly about solar farms last month, during a discussion about a solar power plant, later approved by the board, to occupy space at the Republic Services Allied Waste Niagara Falls Landfill at 5600 Niagara Falls Blvd.

At the time, he raised concerns about the potential prevalence of farms if the town didn’t act to put limits on where the facilities could be located or how many the town wanted to approve.

This public hearing, Sirianni said, will give the current Town Board a chance to hear what residents and business owners have to say about location and quantity the town should have.

But, he added, the next regime of the Town Board, following the November election, will be the ones making any future decisions, as the moratorium will expire just before those officials take office.

“I don’t think the residents want to see these in residential areas,” Sirianni said. “But maybe the residents don’t care.”

Currently, the town only allows these facilities in zoned heavy industrial land, like landfills, Supervisor Lee Wallace said.

The town even has one itself, Wallace said, in a landfill, so it wouldn’t be an easy task to deny any applicant their own should they approach the board before a moratorium is established.

That’s why the board is going to do what it needs to ensure the proper decisions are made, Wallace said.

“We want to make sure that, when we tackle this issue, we’ll cover all of the details to do what’s best for the town,” he said.

June’s regular meeting is shaping up to be one offering a number of opportunities for the public to express their opinions.

Not only will the town solicit opinions about solar and wind farms, the board also approved a hearing concerning the future of the property at 3032 Birch Ave., which town officials have cited numerous times as “unsafe.”

The hearing will determine whether the property should be ordered repaired, demolished or vacated, according to the town’s wording for the public hearing notice.

Town officials will also solicit opinions on a special use permit application for Caliber Collision, at 2749 Military Road.

In addition, the board is expected to review its finalized audit report from Elma-based auditors Drescher & Malecki.

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