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Agriculture? yes. Solar farms? Wales not so sure

Wales bills itself as a “right to farm” community, but one farming industry is facing a temporary restriction by the town council – solar farms.

Commercial solar farms are becoming more popular, but Wales is one of many communities that don’t have a code to regulate them.

“It’s a whole new issue,” Supervisor Rickey Venditti said. “I don’t know if there were any towns that had anything about commercial solar farms in their codes.”

Citing the lack of regulations, the council is considering a six-month moratorium on commercial solar power projects in the town.

Town officials said the moratorium will allow a committee to research the solar power industry and develop a code that will permit commercial solar farms in a manner that won’t be disruptive to residents.

Venditti said the step is similar to one taken by the town several years ago when wind turbines started to become more popular.

“There was nothing in our code because no one ever thought of these circumstances,” Venditti recalled. “A moratorium would be in the town’s best interest so we can address how commercial solar farms would fit in with our town code,”

Councilman Gerald Klinck said the committee is just beginning its research.

According to Klinck, the committee will review locations of established solar farms and their inner workings, and their aimpact on host communities.

“We need to see how it applies to us, because one-size-fits-all isn’t the case here; it has to be something that fits Wales,” Klinck said. “We’re nowhere near formulating a plan. The ultimate goal is to create a zoning ordinance that covers solar energy.”

Klinck added that environmental concerns and potential site abandonment also will be addressed by the committee.

“We’re not against it; it’s just, how are we going to handle it to make it a win-win,” Venditti added. “It has to be a positive thing for the person who installs it, but it has to be positive for the neighbors, so that everyone is protected.”

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, solar power in New York has increased more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014 – twice the rate of U.S. solar growth overall

Venditti noted that the moratorium won’t affect personal and residential use of solar power.

The town council will hold a public hearing on the proposed moratorium at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall, 12345 Big Tree Road.