Description: Challenge to town zoning ordinance that restricted locations for utility-scale solar collection systems.
Friends of Flint Mine Solar v. Town Board of Coxsackie
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 09/13/2019 Decision Download Court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. New York Court Dismissed Challenge to Local Zoning Law that Restricted Development of Solar Facilities. A New York trial court dismissed a lawsuit challenging a town zoning ordinance that restricted utility-scale solar collection systems to commercial and industrial zones. As a threshold matter, the court found that property owners who were concerned about fossil fuel consumption and sought to imminently use their land for renewable energy generation had standing under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), even though the property owners also asserted an economic concern regarding the long-term economic viability of their properties that would not on its own constitute a cognizable injury under SEQRA. The court also ruled that the property owners had standing to challenge the zoning ordinance and that an unincorporated citizens association formed to promote a proposed solar project had organizational standing even if the association’s purpose benefited its members economically. On the merits, the court found that the respondents had taken the hard look required by SEQRA, rejecting arguments that they failed to consider (1) the New York State Energy Plan and its renewable energy target; (2) the pending solar project; (3) the impact on fossil fuel emissions; and (4) global climate change. The court also deferred to the town’s authority in land use matters and found that the zoning ordinance was a valid exercise of local police power. The court noted that New York State had recognized by statute that climate change was adversely affecting New York and that development of solar and other renewable energy was critical to the State’s efforts to combat climate change. The court concluded, however, that local governments could consider the negative impacts of solar energy in their land use decision-making as well as other interests such as protecting agricultural land.