Cortland County passes local PILOT law for commercial solar energy

CORTLAND, N.Y. — The Cortland County Legislature has passed a PILOT law that will allow the county to tax commercial solar farms while also allowing developers to begin proposing solar energy projects for the area.

The PILOT law, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes law, was passed Thursday night during the monthly meeting of the Cortland County Legislature following several months of discussions.

The Agricultural/Planning/Environmental Committee was tasked with drafting the legislation with the intention of promoting solar energy installations in the county without taxing individual homeowners. In turn, they went with a PILOT law which leaves individual homeowners tax-exempt.

“If say, a solar company comes in and rents 83 acres of land, they give a certain amount of money to the homeowner, and the solar company will pay the taxes, not the landowner,” said Sandy Price, chair of the Agricultural/Planning/Environmental Committee.

The committee took several months of time to make sure the PILOT law was in compliance with state law. The solar systems that will be set up will last 15 years. The project also encourages other municipalities in the county to pass local laws and join the solar cause.

“At least four towns have already shown interest in wanting to do that,” said Price. “Whatever revenue we receive this way will give the property owners all over the county a financial break and less property taxes.”

The Cortland County Industrial Development Agency and the Business Development Corporation developed the conditions of the PILOT law that helps establish managing costs and distribution of solar energy to local communities.

“I was relieved, because it has taken us months to get to this point. It seemed like it would be easier. Initially, I thought it would happen quickly, but it’s been about four to five months following the complications of following state law,” said Price.

“I’m relieved that it has passed because I see it as additional revenue for the county, which will ultimately help the local taxpayers. It is commercial only. Those that want to put a solar panel on their roof of their house will not have to pay. Those existing are exempt also,” added Price.

The PILOT has to be filed with the New York Department of State  in Albany. Once it has been filed and received, then it becomes local law.

“I would suspect within the next 30 days, is what I’m hopeful for,” said Price.

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