Letter to the Editor: Why We Need Moratoriums on New Gas Stations and Commercial Solar Plants

Dr. Richard Becker

To The Editor:

I am writing to update the community on two possible moratoriums that are under consideration by the Town of Cortlandt.

The first is a moratorium on new gas stations. Such stations seem to constantly apply to build in our community.  Meanwhile, there are currently 6 stations along the short segment of Route 6 (Cortlandt Boulevard) from the Bear Mountain Extension to The Town Center.

Normally, local governments allow all businesses that meet zoning requirements to open, as it is not in the purview of government to assess the need for or likelihood of success of private investments.

However, in addition to the current glut of gas stations, there are other issues at play that seem to weigh against allowing additional ones.

First, Ford announced this past January that it will be focusing on electric vehicles and anticipates that it will no longer manufacture gas powered cars within 10-15 years. Hence, the demand and need for gas stations will decrease dramatically, leaving Cortlandt with failing or failed stations.

These defunct stations are environmentally hazardous and toxic sites, costing millions to remedy. Owners typically file for bankruptcy, leaving the communities with the cost and responsibility to clean them up.

And these sites rarely get repurposed into new businesses. The moratorium will allow us to better assess the need for any new stations going forward, and then to subsequently consider using only our abandoned stations for new businesses of this type.

The second proposed moratorium concerns Tier 3 Solar installations. These are not the rooftop solar panels individual homeowners install, which we encourage because photovoltaic panels save energy and lower costs.

Rather, this moratorium would be for large, for-profit commercial solar projects. Although solar is clearly a “green energy,” Cortlandt is heavily forested and these larger projects require clear cutting of thousands of trees. The question is — is this a wise trade-off?

John Reilly of MIT feels that it is smart, and his research predicts that the negative effect of cutting trees is quickly made up in just days by less reliance on traditional energy producers that burn carbon-emitting coal. Yet trees offer so much more than carbon reduction: cutting them adversely impacts water quality (by increasing storm-water runoff), air quality, and decreases wildlife populations and biodiversity. So it seems clear that commercial solar may be much more advisable on previously deforested properties—lots, farms, etc.

These environmental complexities need to be examined in full detail in order for the Town to make reasonable, responsible decisions on such impactful issues.  A moratorium would allow the time to study risks, benefits, and alternatives, before allowing any other such projects to move forward.

The Town Board is also eager to seek input from the community. Opportunities to do so will be posted, as we all work together to protect Cortland’s unique environment.

Richard H. Becker, M.D.,
Deputy Supervisor
Town of Cortlandt



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