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Lancaster public hearing sheds light on solar farm regulation

A public hearing Monday night before the Lancaster Town Board to discuss a six-month moratorium on solar farm development drew residents from Alden and Buffalo who shed light on the advantages of solar energy.

"When it comes to zoning laws, we are all addicted to electricity that comes down the energy grid," said a resident of County Line Road in Alden. "With legislative foresight, Lancaster could blaze a trail toward energy independence. Does Lancaster have a green-energy plan?"

Council Member John Abraham Jr. proposed the moratorium to give lawmakers time to review zoning regulations regarding solar farms and determine revisions and amendments to the town codes.

"We're not saying that no solar can be done," Council Member Matthew J. Walter said during a Town Board meeting in February. "It's just about the farms."

Lancaster prepares for moratorium on solar farms

Eric Jones of Potomac Avenue in Buffalo thanked Lancaster Supervisor Johanna Coleman for allowing non-residents to participate in the public hearing before airing his concerns on the moratorium.

"The solar industry is evolving quickly, and I appreciate the fact that Lancaster wants to ensure it is done correctly," said Jones. "My hope is that the town is forward thinking when developing its zoning ordinances. The good news is that unlike fossil fuel, solar energy does not harm the land."

The term “solar farm” means a collection of solar panels – designed to capture sunlight and transform it into electricity – that cover one-quarter acre or more of land. The moratorium will temporarily stop the issuance of permits, certificates of occupancy and approvals for certain land uses related to solar energy.

Grand Island passed a law last month that set minimum acreage and set-back restrictions for solar farms that provide power to the public electric grid. The town won't spot rezone areas for solar use, but would grant special use permits, allowing town officials to discuss each proposal on a case by case basis.

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