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Lowville officials considering minor changes to digester, solar laws

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LOWVILLE — Lowville town councilmen plan to digest a few comments before adopting laws regulating manure digesters and solar energy systems.

“We’ll clear these up,” town Supervisor Randall A. Schell said, suggesting formal adoption could take place at the board’s June 20 meeting after minor changes are made.

Discussion at Thursday morning’s public hearings centered on regulations for small, on-farm digesters, with no comments on the town’s plan to ban commercial ones.

While the draft law requires a 300-foot setback from an on-farm digester to a residence other than that of the property owner, past supervisor and retired dairy farmer Arleigh D. Rice suggested that homes owned by anyone with an interest in the farm should not be subject to the setback requirement either.

As for the solar proposal, a letter from local solar vendor Mickey Dietrich suggested that requiring arrays to be connected to homes by underground cable could restrict town residents from installing new portable systems that plug into electrical systems, much like emergency generators.

Councilmen directed town attorney Raymond A. Meier to review both matters and make any necessary changes to the proposed laws.

Mr. Rice also complained about the allowance of chicken manure in digesters, expressing concern over apparent arsenic content.

And local farmer and cheese curd producer Joseph P. Shultz questioned the disallowance of any off-farm material — including food waste — that could make a digester more efficient.

The proposal was an attempt to keep anyone from setting up a large operation under the guise of an on-farm digester, Mr. Schell said. “In my mind, it’s going to be gray area between commercial and agricultural,” he said.

Town officials have been working on a digester law for some time, partly in response to a proposal by CH4 Biogas, Atlantic Beach, Fla., to site a commercial digester in the Lowville area. The town last year denied a zoning change that would have been needed to site the project in Lowville, and Kraft opted not to work with CH4 after retaining a low-cost power agreement through the ReCharge NY program.

The board on Thursday also voted 3-0 to use about $100,000 from its nearly $1 million highway reserve account to resurface Bardo Road this summer. Councilman Stephen L. Farney abstained because he lives on the road. Councilman Stephan M. Zubrzycki was absent.

Highway Superintendent Richard T. Dening said Bardo Road, which connects Route 12 with outer Stowe Street, has seen additional traffic from the Ridge View Inn restaurant and hasn’t been top-coated for nearly 13 years.

Traffic likely will be even higher if Lewis County adds a proposed office building to its outer Stowe Street complex, Mr. Schell said.

Mr. Dening also reported that his crews spent about two hours after last month’s annual Snirt Run cleaning mud off Bardo Road. However, he said that he was assured by organizers at a post-event review session that they would take care of such cleanup in the future and may even limit the run to the Tug Hill area.

Councilmen suggested any concerns be addressed in advance if organizers again seek road openings for the event.

At the request of assessor Erin C. Gratch, the board also approved hiring Thomas P. Gunn, Brantingham, as her part-time administrative assistant. Mr. Gunn, a former information technology director for Lewis County and current Greig town councilman who has assessing experience, will replace Bonnie Cobb, who is retiring.

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