B y Krystle S. Morey

Granville has opted out of the state’s solar tax exemption, which means solar installations being built in the town are no longer eligible for tax breaks.
The town board voted 5-0 to pass the local law last week, opting out of section 487 of New York State Real Property Law, which allows tax exemptions for solar and wind power.
Town Supervisor Matt Hicks said the half dozen homeowners’ solar projects that were underway before the measure was passed will be grandfathered in and not taxed additionally.
“The law has nothing against solar,” Hicks said. “We are just not treating them as a sacred entity that gets exemption no matter what. It (solar) will be treated like any other entity added to your property.”
There were more than a dozen other projects that had not applied for the exemption as of last Thursday, one being a commercial installation.
“That’s why we held public hearings,” Hicks said.
Residents had until the law was filed with the Secretary of State to file for an exemption. Town attorney Mike Catalfimo said that would be “a matter of days.”
Any solar projects, commercial or residential, that did not notify the town of an existing contract with a solar company before the board’s Aug. 11 meeting and any new projects will be subject to tax increases determined by town assessor Dan Boone.
“Instead of just putting a solar exemption on and recording the fact that they have a solar panel on their roof … we are going to have to determine how many panels and how much value they really add to the property,” Boone said.
Until the local law was passed, the town used a base figure of $5,000, added to the assessed value of a property, no matter what size the installation was.
“It didn’t make a difference of how many panels or anything,” Boone said. “It was a net increase in their assessment, but the exemption took care of it, so the increase didn’t cost them anything.”
Now, Boone and other assessors in the state will soon have to attend training sessions to help them be able to assign a value to the varying types and sizes of solar installations. He said is excited to meet with county officials and other assessors to learn more about the value of solar.
Granville is the fourth town in Washington County to opt out of the solar exemption. Nearby, the Town of Hartford opted out last month. At press time, Easton, Hampton, Hartford and Granville were the only county towns that had decided to tax solar.
“This is an ever-changing thing,” said Laura Chadwick, of director of the county’s Real Property Tax Service department, mentioning that there are towns deciding on whether or not to tax solar every day.
Town Attorney Mike Catalfimo attended the meeting last week to be sure proper protocol was used when passing the law. First, the board adopted a resolution stating that the local opt-out law would not negatively impact the environment. Then, by the same vote, it approved Local Law #1 of 2016 for the town of Granville: the solar opt-out law.
“It’s the process we go through with every local law,” Catalfimo said.
The board spent a few months discussing whether or not it would opt out. It spoke about solar during public session and held a public hearing last month where a few area residents spoke about the solar’s impact on the town.
Boone said the next step for the town will be to develop a depreciation scale for solar installations.
“After 20 years, I would say that there would be no value,” Boone said.
He said town officials will be looking at other communities to see how they are assessing the value of solar on a parcel.
“We are kind of flying by the seat of our pants until we see the impact of solar panels on sales,” Boone said.
A big part of the assessment will be based on property sales.
“If a house with solar panels across the roof sells for more than it would have before, then there’s value there,” Boone said.

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