DICKINSON –– The Town Board voted Monday to opt out of a section of state law that offers a 15-year tax break to companies building renewable energy projects, despite objections of one town resident who said the board was bucking the wishes of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“How come you’re going against the governor?” Rick Deangelis asked the board during a public hearing held prior to the vote. Deangelis pointed out that Cuomo has been pushing to expand renewable energy generation in New York and said by opting out of the tax break, the board was effectively discouraging such development in the town.
Deangelis was the only person to speak at the hearing.
Town officials have said they believe the construction of solar arrays add to the value of a property and should thus be taxed accordingly. The construction of any other type of improvement would result in a higher assessed value –– and accompanying higher property taxes –– and solar arrays or other renewable energy infrastructure should be treated the same way, Councilman Stewart “Barney” White Jr. said.
Deangelis argued that property owners pursue renewable energy projects because they produce additional revenues for the owners, but increasing the assessment on a property that adds a solar array would wipe out whatever additional revenues the array would generate because the returns on solar energy are so small.
“You’re negating the reason for putting the solar collector in in the first place,” he said. “I just don’t understand your reasoning, I guess,” Deangelis said.
Deangelis asked if small projects could be exempted from the board’s decision and still receive the tax break, but Brian Stewart, who is advising the town on all matters related to renewable energy, said the state law makes the opt out an all-or-nothing proposition.
After voting to approve the opt-out, board members convened a work session to hammer out the details of their proposed law to regulate solar farms. The board last month approved an extension of the town’s moratorium on solar or wind projects larger than one-quarter acre, which would have expired at the end of June.
The Dickinson board also voted to opt-out of Section 487 of the state Real Property Tax Law, which offers a default 15-year tax break to companies building renewable energy projects.
The vote would require property owners to pay increased taxes for any value added to their land by the construction of a renewable energy project, Smith said. Property owners could include the increased taxes in their negotiations with energy developers leasing their land, she said.
The measure does not necessarily prevent a development from working out a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for their project, but it does ensure the municipality will be involved in any such discussions. The Chateaugay Central School District and the Malone Town Board approved similar measures when faced with wind power projects in their respective jurisdictions.