Solar project finalizes taxes, community benefits

Jan. 18—The Maverick Farm Solar Project in the Town of Lockport, also known as the Slayton Settlement Project, had its tax deal approved at the Town of Lockport IDA's meeting on Thursday

According to Anthony Bell, the New York director of Renewable Properties, both the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) and the Host Community Benefit package have been worked out between the three players, the Town of Lockport, the Town of Lockport IDA and Renewable Properties.

A one-time payment of $125,000 is being made to the Town of Lockport along with an annual payment of $6,000 per megawatt per year which will be split into two payments, $2,500 for the PILOT agreement to the IDA and $3,500 toward the town itself.

Tom Sy, chair of the Town of Lockport IDA, said that this PILOT agreement will last for 25 years and is not like other PILOTs the agency currently uses as it is not based on a percentage of property taxes, but instead charges per megawatt generated by the solar developer. That number, Sy said, is about seven megawatts per year, which brings up the yearly tax payment to $20,000 per year with a 2% increase each year for the PILOT.

The Host Community Benefit will be $24,500 per year with an increase of 2% each year, as well.

Lockport Supervisor Mark Crocker verified the agreement and noted that in 2048, after the 25-year lifespan of the project, Renewable Properties will be paying $39,406.71 to the Town of Lockport.

"The company will also be responsible for decommissioning the project then," Crocker said. "Or when the technology becomes obsolete."

The project is located along Slayton Settlement Road and is composed of 45 acres on Maverick Farms, an organic dairy farm that had fallen on rough times. To keep the farm in the family's hands, Karl Kowalski made a deal with Renewable Properties. He and his family attended many planning board and town board meetings surrounded by protesters, who were vocal in their opposition of his choice to lease land for solar panels.

'We're doing anything to spite anybody," Kowalski said in May of 2021. "We're trying to keep our farm and be able to afford it, because taxes and assessments and builds and electricity, as a small farm, you can't generate enough to pay that.

"For three years we've run at a loss, not for lack of trying."

A moratorium on solar projects was enacted in July of 2021, but Maverick Farms was labeled exempt in meetings following the pause on solar in the Town.

"The applicant did due diligence and did follow the code," Lockport Councilman Paul Siejak said. He noted that to push the project into the same boat as new projects, "is like moving the goalposts in the middle of a game."