Brooklyn OKs tax deal for solar project
By Francesca Kefalas For The Bulletin
BROOKLYN — The Board of Selectmen approved a resolution to accept what could be a $7 million tax deal with the Quinebaug Solar Project.
The two-page resolution outlines the payment schedule for the town over 20 years and First Selectman Rick Ives said it could bring in the town up to $7 million, depending on how much of the project ends up in Brooklyn.
“We don’t have a whole lot of rights available to us,” First Selectman Rick Ives said. “We can’t put too many caveats that involve ownership of the land because we don’t own the land. The only thing we can do is change the way we collect the taxes.”
Ranger Solar, the developer for the Quinebaug Solar Project, won a bid to provide solar energy as part of a three-state effort to reduce the region’s reliance on natural gas infrastructure and improve the reliability and affordability of New England’s electric system. The project will sit on 544-acres straddling the Brooklyn and Canterbury town line. CJ Walsh, a project manager with Ranger Solar said 65 percent of the project is in Brooklyn and 35 percent in Canterbury.
With the agreement now approved, that means as much as 35-megawatts of the 50-megawatt project could be in Brooklyn. The resolution calls for Quinebaug Solar to pay $10,000 per megawatt per year, which is $350,000 a year for 20 years.
Ives said if the town collected taxes based solely on the equipment on the land in Brooklyn, the taxes would have been closer to $6.2 million.
“So the agreement actually gives us a little bump,” Selectman Joe Voccio said.
Canterbury had already approved its financial agreement with the project and Ives said he believes Ranger Solar is ready to begin the permitting process with the state.
Brooklyn and Canterbury have no jurisdiction over the project. The Connecticut Siting Council will decide whether to grant the permit. The siting council will hold a public hearing on the proposal, but it may not be in either of the host communities.
Ranger Solar hosted a forum in each town earlier this year and representatives of the company said then that is expected to make its formal application to the siting council in early 2017.
The only jurisdiction Brooklyn or Canterbury has over the project is the development of the financial agreement. Ives said state statute allows towns to give an abatement to green energy development projects. The agreement is not an abatement, however. It is a stabilization of how the taxes are paid.
Voccio said for developers high costs at the start of a project would make them less feasible.
While they approved the financial agreement, Selectmen stopped short of providing a letter to the Siting Council offering full support of the project.
Selectman Bob Kelleher said he does not believe the board knows how the town feels about the project because fewer than 50 people came to the forum.
All of the selectmen said they want to ensure abutters have their concerns properly addressed through the Siting Council process.
Aaron Svedlow, vice president of permitting for Ranger Solar, said every aspect of the project will be put under the name of Quinebaug Solar and attached as part of the documentation for the Siting Council permit. Svedlow said that includes any agreements made with abutters, including items such as landscaping to shield the view of homeowners and how long the solar project is responsible for that landscaping.
Walsh has been in the area for months making those agreements with the abutters.
Ives said it will be important for the town to participate in the Siting Council process.
“That’s where our protections can come from,” Ives said. “Everything needs to be detailed and nothing can change from those details without going back to the Siting Council.”