Revised Solar Panel Ordinance to Fit 1133 Westchester Ave Solar Panels on Parking Canopies Has Far-Reaching Possibilities

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WPCNR THE LETTER TICKER. Special to WPCNR From the Rosedale Residential Association. January 12, 2023:

In January and February this year, the city was going to vote on a very large solar array farm on the property of 1133 Westchester Ave.  This property borders our neighbors in North St. and Ridgeway at White Plains.  During that time, we asked RRA members to join with other south end communities to take action to block this project. As a result of the protest, the Common Council investigated the development plans and determined that the plans violated existing zoning laws.  Below is some background information on the project.

Background:

  1. In 2021, a giant solar farm was proposed at 1133 Westchester Ave, the size of 5 football fields and 22 feet high. This is surrounded by residential neighborhoods on three sides. This is not your roof top variety of solar panels.
  2. Only two years before that, the Flatts residential housing was approved as an accessory use at 1133 Westchester Ave site, where they cut down 10 acres of trees to build.  A concern with the Flatts is that RPW, the landlord, opted out of providing the required park and recreation area for its residents, and preferred to pay a fee of $971,000.  Still, they were offered a credit of $766,000 and paid only $205,000 in fees in return for creating an apparently unusable 12,000 square foot patch on a hill, next to the driveway and storm management area. 
  3. Since last fall, nearby residents raised serious concerns about the scope, location and specifics of the solar project and about how little notice was given and how no regard for the community was considered.
  4. It took many attempts by concerned citizens to get the city to recognize the obvious zoning error that was made in preliminarily approving the proposal.  Just this past January the city rejected the proposal.
  5. Just two months later, White Plains City Council called a special meeting to propose an amendment to the zoning ordinance that is oddly similar to the specifications of the proposed 1133 Westchester Ave solar project and offers few, if any, reliable protections for residents.  Common Council members asked questions, nearly all of which were skirted by the presenter with no real answers given.  The topic is scheduled for the June 6 WP Common Council meeting.
  6. If approved, 59 properties (which have not been divulged) in White Plains would be eligible to erect giant solar farms.

     The RRA is not anti-development or anti-solar power projects.  We would like to ensure that if projects are built in or adjacent to our neighborhood, that have a say in the size and scope of development that might impact the safety or character of our neighborhood.  If a project like this can go up at 1133 Westchester Ave, it could also go up at other corporate parks like 1313 Mamaroneck Ave, which boarders our neighborhood, or even the old Windward property.
      Large-scale solar arrays generate energy to be sold for profits.  These carport mounted arrays used to sell energy to ConEd are by definition a utility.  They should NOT be zoned as an accessory use and instead maintain the special permitting process required for energy utilities. They belong in industrial zones and building roof tops, not in or adjacent to residential neighborhoods.  These large-scale arrays have a negative impact to the aesthetics of our neighborhoods and decrease the value of our homes.  

     Proposed local zoning ordinance changes permitting large-scale solar farms surrounding our communities will negatively impact all neighborhoods in our city. 

Below are summary points as to why this project would not benefit our neighborhoods:

  1. Solar-related zoning proposals should be part of the Comprehensive Plan process (in progress) rather than be pushed through for special interests
  2. Manufacturing and selling energy is a utility scale application and should only be permitted in the 3 White Plains industrial zones, rather than next to residential neighborhoods via loopholes (“accessory use”)
  3. There are no known benefits to White Plains citizens associated with the 1133 Westchester Avenue solar farm proposal; the purported 10% utility bill discount is already available
  4. Studies show that nearby property values decline after solar farms are installed
  5. If White Plains insists on negatively impacting neighborhoods, solar arrays should be setback at least 300-400 feet from residential zone borders and complete screening from eye sores mandatory
  6. The current proposal could lead the way to large solar farms on 59 sites in White Plains, likely next to us! 

Feel free to email us at wprra@yahoo.com if you have questions or would like more information.

Voice your concern to the Mayor and City Council members before it is too late (topic of August 1st City Council meeting).  The city will not be taking any more public input on this matter after 6/19.

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