Supporters make case for approval of two solar projects along Alexander Road in Batavia
It's about time to get the show on the road, said supporters of two proposed solar projects on Alexander Road in the Town of Batavia.
The two property owners willing to host the solar farms told Town of Batavia planners Tuesday that the projects are important to them, and a representative for the firm that will install and operate the farms said he would like to finalize a deal soon.
Brian Madigan, the company’s senior permitting manager, sought clarity from planners on what issues remained to be addressed as part of the permitting process.
"I'd like to be sure that I have addressed all of the concerns," Madigan said during the Planning Board meeting. "I want to submit in a timely fashion (a letter addressing all pending concerns) and make sure that you get hard copies, and you have ample time to read it all. It's been, you know, two years for us. We'd like to move on."
"But," responded Board Chairwoman Kathy Jasinski, "it hasn't been two years for us. We do this with all solar projects. We just want to make sure we're doing it right."
The proposed projects are a 14-acre, 3-megawatt solar farm on a 29-acre parcel at 9183 Alexander Road and a 10-acre, 1.6-megawatt system at 9071 Alexander Road.
The planning board did approve on Tuesday the environmental review, passing what's called a "negative declaration," meaning the projects do not pose any significant environmental risk.
As Madigan tries to address any final concerns, he's also still negotiating a host community agreement with the Town of Batavia and the Genesee County Economic Development Center. The agreement would ensure payments to the town of solar power generation.
"I have some concern over the timing of being able to get that host community agreement, to get the IDA, the town board and our team all together before your next meeting on October 4," Madigan said. "We are committed to working in good faith to come to an agreement. We presented draft terms to the town, but I'm not sure -- at the pace at which, you know, meetings come together and given our journey thus far -- I'm really hopeful that we could make that final execution of a number (amount of payments in the Community Host Agreement) a condition of approval since it is a town board function ultimately. That for purposes of the planning board, we get a condition that we have to make the town board and the IDA happy."
As much as Madigan wants to tie a bow on the project, the Hylkema family might be even more eager to ensure the solar farm for their property is approved.
Kerry Hylkema said the solar farm on their private property represents a level of financial security they do not currently enjoy.
Her husband John, she said, is a U.S. Air Force veteran, and he worked in security for the Department of Homeland Security before reaching his required retirement age of 57 after 26 years of service. He is a cancer survivor who was exposed to contaminants at the 9/11 site shortly after the towers fell, and for six months following the attack.
"The income generated from this project makes up for the loss of half of his retirement should something happen to him," Hylkema said. "This secures my family's ability to stay in our home. At the end of the day, this project hurts nobody, is a benefit to the environment, and it keeps the land a viable option for farmland in the future. Please approve this solar project so we can finally plan for our future."
At a previous meeting, several community members spoke in opposition to the projects, and Dan Reuter, the owner of the property for the other proposed project, seemingly addressed some of the objections raised at a previous meeting.
"I'm an engineer by trade and I like to go by facts and not what we can all jump on in this internet rabbit hole, and come up with ideas that might be skewed in our favor," he said. "For me, it's all about facts. It's all about the truth. And you know a lot of these people that have been complaining really need to go to valuable resources, credible sources for information."
He said the projects are in compliance with all of the requirements.
"I don't see a reason why this should not be allowed to go through based on where we are today," he said.
Jasinski said she expects the board will be in a position to vote on final approval at its next meeting.
Top photo: Dan Reuter speaks to the Town of Batavia Planning Board Tuesday alongside Kerry and John Hylkema. Photo by Howard Owens.