Change of course? Proposed solar farm puts plans for Nicklaus Golf Course in flux

Posted at 9:46 AM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 18:22:35-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A proposed solar farm on Marilla Street in South Buffalo has put plans for a new public golf course in flux.

Source Renewables, a renewable energy company, announced on Friday that it plans on developing two community solar projects on the Marilla Street Landfill. The land is the same site that has long been targeted for a public golf course designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

"We are excited to propose a clean energy plan that will transform the Marilla Street Landfill into a community solar garden that will deliver real benefits to the South Buffalo community,” said Andrew Day, Partner at Source Renewables in a release.

The land was purchased by the Better Parks Buffalo organization in 2018 in an effort to bring two Nicklaus-designed golf courses to Western New York, but when fundraising for the $23 million project slowed, the not-for-profit company fell behind on payments and entered into an option agreement on the parcel with Source Renewables.

Kevin Gaughan, Chairman of Better Parks Buffalo Civic Project, says that the option agreement was finalized in April of 2020.

"The necessity of entering into the agreement was an acknowledgment in part that fundraising is difficult", said Gaughan. "We have authorized them to begin applications to effect a portion of our land, and we are very supportive of that."

Gaughan says that the agreement allowed for Soure Renewables to operate a portion of the site, not the entire thing.

"We entered into an agreement with them to get them to make a little money," Gaughan said, "Right now, in the heat of the moment, they're saying, no we want to make more money."

But Corey Auerbach, the land use attorney from Barclay Damon representing Source Renewables, says Gaughan signed over site control when he executed the option agreement in April of 2020.

"Source Renewables is moving forward with a community solar development on the entire parcel.", said Auerbach.

Source Renewables says that the lack of mortgage payments by Better Parks Buffalo is what lead to this. Gaughan says that, while they have not made a mortgage payment in about two years, they never were asked for one.

Source Renewables submitted an application for rezoning with the City of Buffalo to rezone the Marilla Street Landfill property to a distributed solar farm, which would consist of two 5MW (megawatt) solar arrays that will produce enough electricity to power over 2,500 households per year.

“Our investment in South Buffalo will bolster the economy and be good for the environment. We are committed to helping create new jobs, achieve the state's renewable energy goals, provide the city with increased tax revenue, and produce energy savings for Buffalo residents”, said Day in a release.

Gaughan believes there is a way for both projects to still work on the land. "I am going to be reaching out to them with a proposed solution. . . . Both of our projects are worthy of success."

Gaughan says he will not take this dispute to litigation, meanwhile Solar Resources will see their plan for the rezoning of the facility in front of the Buffalo Planning Board late March.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to Nicklaus Design, who would have designed the course, and are waiting to hear back.