Canton town officials opt out of 15-year real property tax exemption for renewable energy projects
BY PAUL MITCHELL
North Country This Week
CANTON – A 15-year real property tax exemption for properties with renewable energy systems, including solar centers, is now off the table for new systems looking to interconnect to the electric grid after the Canton Town Board “opted out” of provisions of Section 487 of the state’s Real Property Tax Law.
Following a public hearing Tuesday night where several Canton residents questioned the move, the board unanimously agreed to opt out the Section 487 law.Overtones of the opt out move focused on the proposed 240-megawatt solar center on the Rich Road.
“This will allow the town to render new systems to be taxable,” explained William Buchan, hired by the town to consult on solar energy matters. “This might be helpful with negotiations and strategically be substantial assistance in negotiations.”
Tax-exempt projects under the opt-in law are subject to Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILOTs.
Initially, the town board decided to honor the 15-year exemption.
“In Canton, the town chose to allow the exemption to encourage a lot of beneficial solar,” Buchan stated.
The adopted local law states:
“Pursuant to subsection of the said 487 of New York State Real Property Tax Law, the Town of Canton by this local law provides that no exemption under $87 of the Real Property Tax Law shall be applicable to real property in the town, including and with respect to solar or wind energy systems constructed subsequent to the effective date of this local law, nor for nay micro-hydroelectric energy system, fuel cell electric generating system, micro-combined heat and power generating equipment system, electric storage equipment or electric energy storage system, or fuel-flexible linear generator electric generating system constructed subsequent to the effective date of this local law.”
Before the town’s affirmative action, residents had questions about the “opt in” move and also voiced concerns about the Rich Road solar project.
Irish Settlement Road resident Kasey Maroney said the town needs to hold developers to host community agreements.
“The state will come in and assess the land and you are going to get screwed,” she commented.
Buchan said the town solar law accounts for community development agreements.
“The town will work hard to generate as much revenue as possible,” he said.
Buchan also noted that a state statute empowers the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to negotiate PILOT agreements.
Macomb resident David Duff issued strong warnings to the town board, labeling the Rich Road project David vs. Goliath.
“This project is profoundly out proportioned for this community,”Duff remarked. “The reason they [EDF Renewables] is because land is cheap and ag land is in disarray. The camel’s nose is under the tent. Be very careful. It’s the little guy versus the big guy.”
Meade Road resident Pam Rose applauded the town board for their diligence but had concerns.
“I don’t feel Canton should be overrun with solar. I worry about our farmland and our children,” she said.
Her husband Jim Rose, who saw a site plan for a 5-megawatt solar project adjacent to his property approved by the town planning board Monday night, expressed his views.
“There’s a 9 million dollar project behind us and they get the tax breaks,” Rose said. “I’m not against solar but what bothers me is Canton is losing all these acres of farmland.”
Clark Cummings, 86 Riverside Drive, Canton, twice asked the board if they support the Rich Road project with no response from the town board.
“Are you in or out?” he asserted.