The Niagara Falls Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 8 on a new local law, and related zoning code changes, that would establish regulations for the development of solar energy generating operations in the city.
Members of the Falls City Council unanimously approved the new local law which will govern solar generating systems not integrated into residential structures. Council members said the law is intended to help the city prepare for a green future that will feature solar farms in the Cataract City.
Similar types of developments, in towns and villages around Niagara County, have faced stiff opposition. Erie County has also been welcoming to solar farm development.
“New York state is committed to promoting green energy and this law addresses that,” City Corporation Counsel Christopher Mazur, who drafted the new law and regulations, said. “There’s great potential here in the city of Niagara Falls and we want to make sure we have the tools to move that ahead.”
The law is based on a model piece of legislation created by the state for local municipalities. It was sponsored by City Council Chair Kenny Tompkins.
“Who wouldn’t want (solar farms) here?” he said. “We’re creating a means for that to happen.”
Asked if he would welcome the kinds of solar energy development being shunned elsewhere in Niagara County, Tompkins said, “I hope so.”
The council referred the local law and proposed zoning code amendments to both the Niagara County and Niagara Falls Zoning Boards for review. Both boards will make a recommendation to either approve, disapprove or modify the zoning code amendments and the local law.
The December public hearing set by the city planning board is the first step in the review process.
Council members also enacted a four-month moratorium on the consideration or issuance of building and use permits for the construction of solar energy generating facilities. Tompkins said the moratorium was not designed to stifle the building of solar farms, but rather to allow time for the regulatory framework created by the new local law and the zoning code amendments to be approved and put into place.
“We’re not trying to block it,” the council chair said. “We just want to make sure we have everything in place (for development).”