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Neighbors file suit to halt solar project

New Pine Plains Herald|December 29, 2023
New YorkPhotovoltaic Solar

Preserve Pine Plains, an unincorporated association of landowners and neighbors, has filed an Article 78 lawsuit with the State Supreme Court against the Pine Plains Planning Board over the proposed 42-acre solar energy project in the hamlet of Pulvers Corners. The suit, filed on Dec 27, seeks to block the construction of photovoltaic panels in that area and prevent the cutting of 22 acres of trees. (In an Article 78 proceeding, a state court is asked to review a decision of a New York state agency that is argued to be unlawful.) 


Preserve Pine Plains, an unincorporated association of landowners and neighbors, has filed an Article 78 lawsuit with the State Supreme Court against the Pine Plains Planning Board over the proposed 42-acre solar energy project in the hamlet of Pulvers Corners. The suit, filed on Dec 27, seeks to block the construction of photovoltaic panels in that area and prevent the cutting of 22 acres of trees. (In an Article 78 proceeding, a state court is asked to review a decision of a New York state agency that is argued to be unlawful.) 
 
Throughout 2023, the Carson Power proposal was the subject of dozens of meetings in Pine Plains. In a special session on Nov. 28, the planning board voted unanimously to approve a special use permit and site …
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Preserve Pine Plains, an unincorporated association of landowners and neighbors, has filed an Article 78 lawsuit with the State Supreme Court against the Pine Plains Planning Board over the proposed 42-acre solar energy project in the hamlet of Pulvers Corners. The suit, filed on Dec 27, seeks to block the construction of photovoltaic panels in that area and prevent the cutting of 22 acres of trees. (In an Article 78 proceeding, a state court is asked to review a decision of a New York state agency that is argued to be unlawful.) 
 
Throughout 2023, the Carson Power proposal was the subject of dozens of meetings in Pine Plains. In a special session on Nov. 28, the planning board voted unanimously to approve a special use permit and site plan for the solar farm, which would open the way for Carson Power to complete its purchase of the 172-acre property, to begin clear-cutting and to install 24,000 solar panels, which would generate enough electricity to power 1,500 homes annually.  
 
The board had earlier concluded that the project would not have a negative environmental impact and issued a negative State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) determination, which was formalized on Aug. 23. That meant that the proposal did not need to go through an extensive state-managed environmental review, which in some cases can take more than a year. 
 
The suit, brought by neighbors living near the proposed solar development, seeks to nullify the planning board’s issuance of the special use permit and its SEQRA determination. The litigants allege that those decisions conflict with Pine Plains zoning laws and the town’s 2019 comprehensive plan, which places “a high value on preserving the community’s rural character and natural beauty.” 
 
By issuing a negative declaration of environmental significance, the plaintiffs say, the planning board “failed to identify all relevant areas of environmental concern…and provide a reasoned elaboration for the basis of their Decision. Moreover, the Planning Board’s determination that the Project will not result in any adverse environmental impact…lacks substantial evidence in the Record.” 
 
Michael Stabile, the chair of the planning board, declined to comment. Andrew Gordon, a senior project manager with Carson Power, said, “We are disappointed that this group decided to move forward with this action. We made a substantial effort over the last year to work with folks in the neighborhood and address their concerns. We made several site plan changes in response to both public comments and feedback directly from the planning board. We are very confident that all of the questions identified in the petition were addressed throughout an incredibly robust review process by the planning board.” 
 
The named petitioners from Preserve Pine Plains are Pavan Gattani, Anna Maria Gattani, Kathleen Vuillet Augustine and James Pinto. They are represented by Mindy Lee Zoghlin of the Zoghlin Group in Rochester, N.Y.  She is an environmental lawyer who represented a group trying to block a 255-acre solar project in Copake. (That challenge is ongoing, though New York’s Office of Renewable Energy Siting has granted a permit to the developer, essentially allowing the project to move forward.) 
 
The defendants are the Town of Pine Plains Planning Board, Pulvers Corners Solar 1 & 2, Carson Power, Nexamp, property owners Carol Giardino, Diane Weck, Lucie M. Giardino, John Does and ABC Corporations. 
 
The judge who has been assigned to the case is Christi Acker, who is married to Steve Patterson, a member of the planning board. The case is likely to be re-assigned. 
 
Carson Power intends to start clear-cutting in February and begin construction in April. The lawsuit does not include an injunction, so the work schedule can continue while the case is adjudicated. If, however, there is a judgment in favor of the litigants, the project would likely face a delay until at least next fall, as the New York City-based company agreed to cut trees only during bat hibernation season, which begins in October or November and runs through March.

Source:https://www.newpineplainshera…

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