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Company seeks help from council to move approved-solar project forward in Rome

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 7/15/22

A representative of U.S. Light Energy solar company based in Latham requested support from city officials on a previously-approved solar farm for Rome-Oriskany Road ...

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Company seeks help from council to move approved-solar project forward in Rome

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ROME — A representative of U.S. Light Energy solar company based in Latham requested support from city officials on a previously-approved solar farm for Rome-Oriskany Road during public comments at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting held in Council Chambers of City Hall.

U.S. Light Energy’s Michael Fingar said his company is currently being held up because of the moratorium placed on solar arrays in the city. Wednesday’s agenda included Ordinance 9528, which states Rome Common Council has the authority to amend both the Zoning Code when it is deemed that the amendment would protect the health, welfare and safety of citizens and businesses, or further the public interest, and to impose a moratorium on solar array projects where appropriate.

According to the legislation, the council is in the process of considering amendments to City Code Chapter 80, relating to the construction of solar arrays in the city and their requirements. Ordinance 9528 was later unanimously approved by the council.

Fingar said his company was trying to obtain a building permit from the Codes Department and when attempting to question the city, it had not heard from Corporation Counsel in several weeks. He said he wanted to stress the importance that the project gets “freed up,” with the proper channels in place, because at the time the city approved the solar project, there had been no moratorium. The 4.3 megawatt solar project was to be installed at 6948 Rome-Oriskany Road.

“We were told we’d be operational this year and be online by next month, but now there’s a holdup because of the moratorium,” Fingar pointed out.

Common Council President Stephanie Viscelli said she did attempt to contact the company and the council would be able to answer his questions following the meeting. Fingar said the Corporation Counsel had recently been in contact with U.S. Light Energy as well.

During councilor comments, Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers explained to Fingar that council members were currently working with members of the Codes Department, city officials and members of the community to gather feedback before drafting legislation pertaining to the construction of solar farms in the city.

“Our goal is to wrap up all comments in the next couple days, distribute them to all councilors, and have the final document drafted within the next couple weeks,” said Rogers.

If on the agenda for the July 27 meeting, the legislation “will need to be tabled, because it will need to go to the planning board because there will be some modifications,” she said. “It will include items such as decommissioning bonds and different things like that, and you’ll see a public document soon.”

Before encouraging councilors to approve Ordinance 9528, Fifth Ward Councilor Frank R. Anderson said, “We need the extension because there’s more review that needs to be done. We had contact with a solar company this week working on behalf of a farmer. There’s a lot of interest in the area of solar arrays, and we want to make sure all our I’s are dotted and all our T’s crossed” before “we want to move forward with solar arrays.”

He said, “The governor has been very vocal about alternative energy projects...An Agriculture District may or may not be the best place” for the arrays, “and this all started as whether we wanted them in a residential area. There’s still a lot of due diligence to do.”

The following legislation was unanimously approved:

• Resolution 75 authorizing an amendment to the 2022 water and general funds budget for an increase in cost for Information Technology equipment in the amount of $6,945.

• Resolution 76 authorizing the mayor to submit an application for a state Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Area program for redevelopment activities in the amount of $180,000 for canal landing enhancements. Councilor Rogers said two resolutions (76 and 77) for the Muck Road boat launch and trail on the agenda were important for the development of the area. “The boat launch is heavily used and it’s in major need of attention,” she said. “I asked a couple years ago for us to take a look at that area — it could use some tender loving care.”

• Resolution 77 authorizing the mayor to submit an application for NYSDOS Brownfield Opportunity Area program funding for pre-development activities in the amount of $135,000 for a multi-use trail on Muck Road and rail-to-rail connection.

• Resolution 78 would authorize the mayor to submit an application for a state Consolidated Funding Application grant for the Technical Assistance Building Reuse Feasibility Assessment Project in the amount of $20,000 toward the New York Main Street program.

• Resolution 79 authorizing the mayor to submit an application for a state Consolidated Funding Application Grant for the Park Drive NYS Environmental facilities Green Innovation Grant Program Woodhaven Complete Streets Project Phase I in the amount of $2,764,220. Monies would be utilized toward the Rethink Woodhaven Revitalization Plan, the Woodhaven Area Complete Streets Study and the Comprehensive Plan.

• Resolution 80 authorizing the mayor to submit an application for a state Consolidated Funding Application Grant for pre-development activities related to the building conditions assessment, financial feasibility analysis, reuse plan and development for the former Columbus School site in the amount of $112,500.

• Resolution 81 would authorize the mayor to accept state Department of Transportation Touring Route 2022 grant funding in the amount of $1,036,048. for the repair, rehabilitation and modernization of local roads and bridges.

• Resolution 82 authorizing the mayor to execute lease agreements with Enterprise Fleet Management for the leasing of nine vehicles, each for a five-year term.

• Resolution 83 authorizing the mayor to execute lease agreements with Enterprise Fleet Management for the leasing of six police vehicles for five-year terms each.

• Resolution 84 would determine that the proposed Empire State/Canalway Trail Towpath Improvement Project is a Type II action for the purposes of the state Environmental Quality Review Act, indicating that the project would have no environmental impacts.

• Resolution 85 authorizing the mayor to submit an application for a state Consolidated
Funding Application (CFA) grant for the Empire State/Canalway Trail Towpath Improvements Project in the amount of $385,000.

• Resolution 86 authorizing the mayor to terminate current Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement PILOT and execute a new agreement by and between the city and Liberty Georgian Arms Housing Development Fund Company, Inc. CRM Rental Management met with Common Council members last month to discuss future legislation authorizing the execution of a new 40-year tax exemption agreement (PILOT) between the city and Liberty Georgian Arms Housing Development Fund Company, Inc.

Rome Shines Award Recipients:

• First Ward: Jay DiMaggio, 940 Floyd Ave.

• Second Ward: C.J. and Alex Bauer, 6796 Lamphear Road

• Third Ward: Joseph Calandra, 411 W. Liberty St.

• Fourth Ward: David and Cathy Castor, 748 W. Court St.

• Fifth Ward: Robert and Lynette Griffith, 1101 Cedarbrook Drive

• Sixth Ward: Maylene Magnanti, 1513 N. Madison St.

• Seventh Ward: Scott and Paula Jo Gratch Gilroy, 210 W. Walnut St.

• Citywide: Hayley Cataldo, 1731 N. James St.

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