Neighbors raise concerns about major solar project

WWNY Neighbors raise concerns about major solar project

TOWN OF WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It’s a major solar project that’s looking at over 2,000 acres of land, sprawling throughout the towns of Watertown and Hounsfield. But it’s a project neighbors say goes against what that land is meant for.

Becky Carr and Till Fritzsching’s 200-year-old home on Beutel Road may one day be surrounded by solar panels.

“I mean, I’m not afraid of having it in my backyard, but having it on all sides of me is another story,” said Carr.

“This project will basically landlock us. We’ll be a doughnut hole in the middle of 300 acres of solar panels,” said Fritzsching.

The project, run by Boralex, Inc. is looking at about 2,000 acres of land between the towns of Watertown and Hounsfield for a 120 megawatt solar farm.

Bill Tremont’s family lives along Old Rome State Road, one of the impacted areas. He says this project goes against the rural character of the town.

He says this isn’t just a 25-acre community solar project.

“This is 100 times that size. This is significant. This will negatively alter the community character for years to come and will have a pretty detrimental impact on the quality of life for everyone in the surrounding neighborhood,” he said.

Tremont says the project also goes against the current residential zoning.

“That’s what zoning is for. It’s to protect the current property owners and families that live here from outside sources coming in and really changing the character of the community,” he said.

Boralex representative Darren Suarez says they have spoken with landowners individually about their concerns.

“We’ve met with individuals personally and our intention is always to have a conversation about what it is they desire, what they are looking for, and whether we can change or adapt the project to meet those needs,” said Suarez.

Like Tremont, Christopher Morse lives on Old Rome State Road and says it’s scary to think of what could happen if the project is sped up and not well thought out.

“There’s a lot of projects planned in the north country and we could easily, I think, within a generation, go from being primarily agricultural, with big employers like agriculture, to, essentially, a solar farm,” said Morse.

Despite the concerns, Suarez says Boralex has worked with the town every step of the way.

“They are the ones that represent the community. They understand the community better than us. Our goal is to be as understanding as they are and to understand exactly where the interest of the community lies,” he said.

Suarez says the construction phase of the project will create about 100 jobs. He says the project is in its early stages, and construction is expected to start in the next two years.

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