Town of Massena officials discuss placing moratorium on creation of solar farms

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MASSENA — Town of Massena officials have agreed to start the process to put a moratorium on solar farms or solar energy systems that want to set up in Massena.

Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy told Massena Town Council members this week that he had received a proposed local law from town attorney Eric Gustafson. He suggested they implement a moratorium “until we have the opportunity to review our local law and make any adjustments that we can handle with a development.”

“It’s not that I want to discourage any sort of development or jobs or assessed value coming into the town,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

His concern was that the current code did not make any provisions for businesses like solar farms or cryptocurrency operations.

“This was the case with the cryptocurrency businesses that wanted to come to Massena. We were kind of caught flat-footed,” he said.

North Country Data Center, a subsidiary of the cryptocurrency mining company Coinmint, has set up its operation at the former Alcoa East plant, and the town’s code did not address data centers and technology parks. But, even though nothing in the code addressed cryptocurrency operations, the Massena Planning board approved the site plan and special use permit for the operation because it fell within guidelines that were part of the code.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy said at least one other local municipality is looking at implementing a moratorium on solar farms.

“I just happened to read about Canton doing the same thing in their town, and I think that’s something that we should look at,” he suggested.

Council member Samuel D. Carbone said the moratorium would be put into place until February 2019.

“So it really shouldn’t affect anyone planning on a large solar farm,” he said.

Board members will have time to review the proposed local law and then move forward during their August meeting.

They must schedule and hold a public hearing on any proposed local law before they can approve it.

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