Schoharie village back solar process; the project? Not yet


By Patsy Nicosia

The process?
The project?
Not yet.
That’s the stand the Village of Schoharie is taking on the 40-acre Bliss solar project, proposed just over the Town of Schoharie line on land owned by Len and Meg Berdan.
In August, the Berdans asked Mayor Larry Caza and trustees for a letter of support for their plans.
Instead, confident the town is more than capable of reviewing the project (see related story), the village voted 3-1 Tuesday to “support the process underway.”
“We’re saying we don’t know enough to green light this…
“While it’s not everything the Berdans were looking for, we’re not saying ‘Stop what you’re doing,’” Mayor Caza said after reading trustees the letter he’d written.
“It sounds like we’re supporting the process, not the project,” Trustee Jeff Palmer said.
“When I came here tonight, my intent was to listen…but this letter, I’d be OK with that.”
Trustee Mark Wood questioned the need to send any letter now and voted against it; Mayor Caza, Mr. Palmer and Trustee Peter Johnson voted in favor of it and Trustee Sal Medak abstained.
“This isn’t the end of the road,” Mayor Caza said. “We’re saying we don’t have any reason to stand in the way.”
“I think that letter is very reasonable,” said Marion Jaqueway, a neighbor to the Berdans who spoke beforehand about some of her concerns.
“I’m not sure you understand the magnitude of this,” she said, arguing the project runs contrary to many of the goals outlined in the 1997 Comprehensive Plan.
Among them: the right of adjacent property owners and protecting scenic views.
Ms. Jacqueway said she’s also concerned about floodwater runoff once the 26 acres worth of trees are cleared.
That last concern hit home with Jason Ballard, who lives up behind The Birches and has already seen his property flooded, not just by Hurricane Irene, but by microbursts and heavy rain coming off the hill behind him.
“To think this is outside the village and is not going to affect the village…this is a village problem and I’m backing the Jacqueways on this,” he said.
An engineer, Mr. Ballard said he’s already had to dig a trench behind his home to divert stormwater; removing so many trees will only let the water move faster.
“We’re not against solar. We’re just afraid to jump into this…” Ms. Jaqueway added.
Also speaking Tuesday, both of the Berdans pointed to the fact that the project will generate locally-sourced electricity while increasing the tax base and providing a local PILOT.
“This is important,” Ms. Berdan said. “We can all see what’s happening with stronger and stronger storms. We might have a decade or so to slow or reverse this. Here is our chance to do something for our community and our grandchildren.”
The difficult thing about solar, added Mr. Johnson, is that no one’s wrong.
“It’s one of the strange situations where everyone’s right,” he said.
“I think we need to be strong advocates for people’s concerns. But I really see a need for renewable energy” and solar farms that aren’t just line of ugly panels.
“Maybe this is the place to start.”