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Lockport targets June 23 for vote on opposed solar farm

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The Lockport Town Board Wednesday evening discussed the solar farm planned for Slayton Settlement Road.

It's going to be another two weeks before the Lockport Town Board is likely to rule on a large solar farm planned for Slayton Settlement Road.

Organic dairy farmer Karl Kowalski wants a solar farm on 46 acres of this farm -- around a third of the property -- with the rest continuing as a dairy operation. The solar property is being developed by Renewable Properties, out of San Francisco, and would produce about seven megawatts of electricity.

Kowalski said he is trying to save his farm.

"We've looked to this project because we're trying to find alternative ways to save our farm so that we may keep farming it for many years, because the turn in agriculture and the turn in organic has changed and it's not as profitable as it was," Kowalski said. "Our health is failing us and we would like to continue farming and we thought that this would be a great way."

Credit Renewable Properties
Renewable Properties would run the solar farm on land leased from dairy owner Karl Kowalski.

The Town Board is considering a six-month moratorium to discuss the plan because of strong opposition to the project. Speakers at a Town Board meeting Wednesday evening had a variety of objections, including claims solar is an unproven technology and that no one told them the solar farm was in the works. 

"We're not asking for a complete -- at this stage of the game -- for a complete denial of this project," said Richard Maigret. "We're simply asking for the town to have a moratorium, where it can be discussed, where you can look into it. The issues of whether this project is going to go forward or not can be easily decided in six months."

Stephanie Loucas, vice president of development for Renewable Properties, said the project is legal and allowed.

"Solar is an allowable use of that land, which is not a complex deed. There is the concern about the proliferation of solar, but since 2016, there has been one project, this project, proposed. I have to say to you, respectfully, that's not a valid concern," Loucas told speakers.

The project is before the Niagara County Planning Board. Lockport Supervisor Mark Crocker said if the review is finished in time for a board work session June 23, there would be a vote then.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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