The Dryden Town Council continued the public hearing on the proposed solar development along 2150 Dryden Road prior to the planning board meeting on Oct. 22 where more public backlash was given towards the amendments to the project’s site plan.
The project was originally submitted by Distributed Sun LLC in 2017 and was approved by the council that same year. However, Distributed Sun is no longer the developer of the project as True Green Capital is the current developer of the project, and is now proposing the entire development be built above ground, instead of underground, with overhead lining poles throughout the site connecting to the grid.
The primary reason for why members of the community are displeased with the current site plan is the fact that it would no longer be built underground, which was something that was already approved by the council when it passed the original site plan in 2017, and the overhead lining will worsen the aesthetics of the site. At this past Thursday’s meeting, though, resident Craig Schutt brought up the fact that the town’s conservation board still has not been given access to view the southside of Virgil Creek to see what the developer is planning to do with that particular area.
“I don’t know why [True Green] won’t allow that,” Schutt said. “What’s the problem with giving us a site visit for 15 or 20 minutes there? Why can’t we do that? It’s always the same thing that there’s no reason and everything is alright. How do you know everything is alright? I’ve asked over and over and over again for access to that site and everybody just ignores me. I’m getting a little tired of it. It makes me doubt, question more and more what is really going to happen.”
Director of Planning Ray Burger responded by saying that both of the town’s code enforcement officers visited the site and said they saw that the Willow Glen tributary, which is south of Virgil Creek, has only been changed slightly.
“The one change that I think may be very physical is that originally there was a farmer road – a tractor crossing – of Willow Glen Creek, and we were allowing the contractor of the original site plan to drive right on that same road,” Burger said. “Well, in order to protect the creek more and prevent any sediment from getting in the creek, they actually put in a culvert there. So there is a spot there – there’s a 20-feet culvert, and that is probably the part that is being viewed as where they straighten the creek.”
While he said that is an improvement, Schutt said that still does not address his concerns about what is taking place at the southside of Virgil Creek.
“You can deflect all you want, and give this and that and that, but the bottom line is the southside of Virgil Creek is something no one has been able to see,” Schutt said.
Project engineer Ilias Garidis said no part of the project is entering the southside of the creek. Garidis and developer Noah Siegel explained that just passing the fencing for the solar panel array, which is about 60 feet south of the creek, are three electricity poles, and beyond those poles are some trees and then a drop-off leading into open, relatively flat land.
Following the conclusion of the public hearing, the council held a vote on the resolution to approve the proposed amendments, which was eventually passed unanimously barring a list of conditions that included some of the following points:
A landscaping plan, submitted to and approved by the town engineer and planning director, to include at least 10 evergreen trees to raise the screening provided by the natural vegetation buffer along George Road as well as maintaining that existing vegetation buffer.
Bollards to be placed to protect the guy wire anchors nearest the 40-foot wide access lane at the east corner of the 18-pole matrix.
Vegetation removal across Virgil Creek will be limited to only those trees that will immediately impair the overhead lines and shorter understory vegetation will not be cut. There will be no recognized tree removal between the pole line and the stream bank. Any tree stumps should remain to avoid soil disturbance. Future tree cutting should be limited to these same requirements.