The approximately 100 people who packed the Dryden Town Hall Thursday, March 16 were saying the same things in varying examples and terms.
We want solar. But not in these spots.
The town board heard at the public hearing from more than 25 people, the mass of which forced vehicles to line the side of the road due to a lack of parking, who voiced their opposition to the two large solar array projects
Distributed Sun has proposed on Stevenson Road (the “Ellis tract”) and 2150 Dryden Rd.
The Washington, D.C. based company has proposed Community Distributed Generation projects--arrays that transfer electricity generated in the form of bill credits for residents.
Most will occur on Cornell University land taking up six different sites around Stevenson, Dodge and Turkey Hill Roads that will require a Special Use Permit.
“I’m not here as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard),” Ellis-area resident Ethan Ash said, “but I’m here as WIMBY, which I just came up with, which is ‘Why In My Back Yard?’ And it’s a question my son asked on the way over here because we do walk that road every single day with our two other kids and our dog.”
Ash, who said he was excited about solar and brought his young son for the learning experience, said his neighborhood is not only the group’s community gathering place, but it’s also others’ as well with people coming to go for walks or jogs or bringing binoculars to see the animals.
He called it a “park for many people,” and said the drive out to Dryden is storage facility after storage facility on “land clearly no one cares about,” but in reference to the Ellis Hollow tract, people care about that land.
The proposal for the Ellis tract is eight two-megawatt and two one-megawatt solar photovoltaic arrays, totaling 18 megawatts that would connect to the NYSEG grid.
According to the plan documents on the Dryden Town website. The arrays will be on either side of Stevenson Road and will be in three different areas.
Everyone who spoke to either project cited environmental concerns, the broadness of the project, what they found to be confusing documentation and for the Dryden Road project, the fact the arrays would be directly next to the historic cemetery.
“It’s like the wild kingdom and for that to be destroyed would be terrible … a travesty … a scar on the landscape,” Robert Kuehn said to loud cheers.
Sharon Ordway told the board in her remarks that it’s the huge scale of the project that worries her and that the property is “not empty fields” but rather homes to the animals. She brought sheets of animal species and flora to sit in front of the town board members’ chamber.
The solar arrays sit at most eight feet from the ground, senior vice president Bharath Srinivasan said, and Distributed Sun has used sheep on all of its properties as a natural lawn mower. It means no chemicals or labor for keeping the grass low.
Similar issues were put out about the Dryden Road project, which would be out back of the Willow Glen Cemetery.
Sarah and Joe Osmeloski, who spoke at public comment late last year on the cell tower proposed there, said their concern was the scope of the project and that it “circumvents our law by requesting a subdivision,” Sara said, and splitting it into six separate parcels.
“Where will these creatures live if Distributed Sun is able to pave 75 acres of their home in glass?” Sarah asked.
Joe read the “Protecting Dryden” political party’s statement, the line on which each of the five board members ran and won, and reminded the board it was why the people voted for them.
The party is based partially on protecting the town’s natural resources, specifically from “infiltration by the gas industry.”
“A lot of the people probaby voted for you and hope that you stick with what you basically took an oath to protect Dryden,” Joe said.
The biggest issue people came out forwas the cemetery, with cemetery board members and the head of board of directors speaking during the public comment.
Brad Perkins said he owed it to the 7,500 people buried there and the 2,400 more who have plots to speak at the meeting. He told the board it will affect cemetery revenue as people don’t want to see solar arrays when they visit their beloved family members and referenced the 300 jobs Distributed Sun said it would create.
“After this (construction) is done it takes no labor at all,” he said, telling the board and audience “don’t be fooled.”
Nancy and Edward Couch, wife and husband, spoke and said they had ancestors there.
“I think we should protect our veterans by keeping these things out of sight of our cemetery,” said Edward, a veteran.
Nearly every person who spoke emphasized their enthusiasm for solar and some presented their arguments as questions to the board or recommendations.
After addressing that people seemed to be for it, Bob Schindelbeck suggested the board put a higher criteria on the site and importance of finding a good place first.
“And working backward from a site that works for the people,” he said.
David Bruno-Cullen asked why solar companies weren’t building over parking lots, like those at Cornel and TC3, and Holly Payne spoke for the projects, saying if the people have a proposal to do it properly they should be on board.
“Please remember we are trying to get rid of fossil fuels for our children,” she said.
Buzz Dolph also spoke for the project, asking if anyone would be OK with a solar array in their backyard but adding that he would be proud to look from his window and see one with the knowledge it will help change the course the world is going down at the moment.
Dryden’s two legislators got in the last words on the topic. Martha Robertson (D-Dryden) disputed some of the information public commenters had used and stressed action on behalf of the environment.
“It is up to us,” she said. “We have already messed it up almost beyond repair.” “Please, we have to embrace this,” she added.
Mike Lane (D-Dryden) said he was speaking for himself and not as a legislator and voiced displeasure to “hear anything that would make this a political issue.”
“People here appreciate solar. They understand it,” Lane said. “Does that mean we have to go full speed into giant solar arrays? No.”
Lane recommended the board take into consideration looking at “more small ones [solar arrays] and less bigger ones.”
As Ash had before him, Lane referenced the drive from Ithaca to Dryden on Route 13 and the view of the valley around the curve.
“Watch over that valley and you see our high school, and you see our community college, things we’re so proud of as a community,” he said. “And you see that green space that is there because of the water that we have, the water that we protected when we came out against fracking early on. The water that makes it grow green. We can’t, we need to look