Batavia Town planners schedule public hearings for solar farm, GCASA project
The Batavia Town Planning Board tonight set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 20 on an application by Borrego Solar Systems LLC, of Lowell, Mass., to install an 8.99 megawatt ground-mounted solar farm on Batavia Elba Townline Road, just west of Batavia Stafford Townline Road.
Emilie Flanagan, project developer for Borrego, and Marc Kenward, engineer for Erdman Anthony of Rochester, presented the plan for the 20.45-acre solar system to be built on land owned by Dan Underhill, a Batavia Town Board deputy supervisor.
Kenward said the project would consist of 43,355 solar panels placed in a fenced-in area of 19.94 acres with an additional half an acre to be used for an access driveway.
He said four utility poles will be needed – one more than usual since power will be supplied from across the road, which actually is in the Town of Stafford.
Flanagan emphasized that the panels will go on farm land that is in a valley and will be hidden by nearly 200 trees and landscaping to “have the least amount of impact as possible on neighboring homes.”
Kenward said engineers have made sure that the project meets or exceeds all Town of Batavia zoning codes and have received approval from the Genesee County Planning Board, which recommended that the 20-foot access driveway be eliminated or significantly reduced due to its impact upon the soil.
“We’re doing whatever the Town says we need to do,” Kenward noted. “It’s environmentally friendly; there needs to be little tree and stump removal and it will be enclosed by a 7-foot-high chain-link fence.”
He said glare studies showed that there will be no effect upon the (Genesee County) airport or on the ground.
The board also voted to seek lead agency status for a state environmental quality review.
Kenward said he hopes the permit process will be completed by September, setting the stage for construction over the winter.
In recent weeks, Borrego received approvals for two other solar farms, both on West Main Street Road.
Flanagan, responding to a question about whether the community benefits from projects such as these, said Borrego’s systems are part of the Community Solar program.
“Two weeks ago, the governor (Andrew Cuomo) came out and said that the state has to achieve 70 percent renewable energy by 2030,” she said. “What we build are mid-scale power plants that push electricity back to the local grid. Residents can subscribe to the grid (through their power company) to get discounts.”
She also said benefits come to the Town through building permits and to the county through property taxes.
Owners of the property receive payments from solar companies such as Borrego over a 25-year period, while solar leasing companies profit from selling electricity usually at a lower rate than charged by a utility company and from municipal tax credits.
In other action, the planning board:
-- Approved a site plan review for six to 10 temporary vendor areas on the property of Batavia Starter at 3282 W. Main Street Road, just west of Wortendyke Road.
Owner Phil Hinrich told planners that he hopes to attract vendors – sellers of fruit and vegetables, crafts, antiques, etc. – to set up shop in front of his business on the weekends in hope of increasing his bottom line.
“I have space to put four vendors on one side and six on the other, with lots of room behind the building for parking,” he said. “My goal is to generate some extra money to cover taxes.”
His plan has been approved by the Genesee County Planning Board, pending Hinrich’s acquisition of a driveway permit through the state Department of Transportation. Hinrich said he already has the permit and plans to put up temporary “enter” and “exit” signs to ensure proper traffic flow.
Hinrich said he would like to open the vendor area to the public in the summer months until around Labor Day, but may not be able to get the venture off the ground until next year. Planners asked him to report back to them in the spring for an update on the project.
-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 6 in connection with a special use permit by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to develop an indoor recreation facility for recovering addicts at the former Bohn’s Restaurant site at 5258 Clinton Street Road.
Town Building Inspector Daniel Lang reported that the agency’s planned use for the building does fit into the town code since it is in a commercial zone.
He brought up the possibility of a reverse PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to the Town as a result of the property coming off the tax rolls.
GCASA was unsuccessful in finding a place in the City of Batavia as it was hit with opposition from residents and council members.
“Maybe we, too, will have some opposition,” said Planning Board Chairperson Kathy Jasinski. “We’ll find out.”
Both the solar farm and GCASA public hearings will take place at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.
-- Approved the placement of three signs at Fresenius Kidney Care at 4189 Veterans Memorial Drive (near Home Depot).
Edward “Jay” Hurzy of Sign and Lighting Services Co. of Ontario (N.Y.) said three signs will be erected – one on the pole, one on the building and one (with a brick base) by the road.