Kulpa proposes zoning law requiring solar panels atop big-box stores

Amherst Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa is planning to propose a zoning law later this month that will require ‘big-box’ retail stores and plazas larger than 50,000 square feet, like Walmart and Home Depot, to install solar panels atop their roofs.

The law will take effect in July 2024 and would penalize properties that are not in compliance with a fine that would accrue daily, at a rate of $100 per day.  It is unclear if large-scale surface parking lots will be required to install solar canopies above parking spots as well, which is being discussed by some members of the Town Board.

Democrats have a 4-0 majority on the Town Board.

Local labor unions — including Local 210 and Local 91 — are fervently in support of the municipal ordinance, which they are asking other suburban municipalities to pursue as well.  Several dozen commercial structures in Amherst would be required to install the solar arrays, which would create hundreds of construction jobs.

Some local developers have been lobbying Kulpa to include a municipal tax credit that would mitigate the cost of compliance with the new law by offsetting the installation costs against the property’s municipal tax liabilities.

Activists have been calling on the Town’s three school districts — who are flush in COVID-related funding — to install similar solar roofs, though school districts are unlikely to be subjected to the zoning ordinance.

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