MIDDLEPORT — The Royalton Town Board passed a local law Monday night opting the town out of automatic tax exemption for local solar and wind projects.

Under this local law, the town is opting out of state Real Property Tax Law 487, which provides a 15-year property tax exemption for properties with renewable energy systems.

“This is based on what Niagara County did in October of 2020,” Supervisor Dan Bragg said. “They passed a law removing real property tax exemptions from solar and wind energy systems under section 487.”

The issue is the same in the town as it was for the county legislature: If the community is not in favor of a project, that project will not be given preferential treatment.

The board hosted a public hearing on the proposed local law prior to voting on it, and no comments were offered.

Currently, Bragg told the Union-Sun & Journal, there are no active permits for any non-residential solar projects in Royalton, but over the years a few developers have come around to see whether any landowners were interested.

A moratorium on development of solar energy projects, imposed last year, remains in effect while the board considers changes to its siting law. Presently arrays are allowed in industrial zones only.

“We may very well draft something new, the town engineer just gave us a report and made several recommendations,” town attorney Thomas Brandt advised a solar development company representative who made a presentation to the town board on Monday. “The planning board will be looking at making some changes to the existing law.”

By opting out of RPTL 487, the board is giving the town the option to tax solar and wind projects built within its borders.

According to a fact sheet put out by NY-Sun, a resource center for New Yorkers who want solar power, a solar farm might never be built if the developer feels it’s too costly to place one within a municipality that has opted out of RPTL 487.

Newly adopted state Real Property Tax Law 575-b strips local municipalities of the ability to assess the market value of solar and wind energy projects. Instead the assessments are to be done by a state agency, effectively making moot the opting out of RPTL 487.

“I want the autonomy of the town to exist and not be dictated by the governor,” Bragg said in response, indicating that adoption of the opt-out provision was part of due diligence for town residents as more solutions are sought to the issue. “We want to keep it farmland. It’s the number one industry in our town.”

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