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October 9, 2020 - 7:58am

Planning board asks Byron officials to revise property value, prime farmland sections of local law on solar

The Genesee County Planning Board is asking the Byron Town Board to consider revisions to a couple sections of its proposed local law on solar energy systems.

Planners on Thursday night approved the referral from the town for zoning text amendments governing the placement of solar projects, but not before Planning Director Felipe Oltramari pointed out issues with wording in sections pertaining to property values and prime farmland.

On the clause addressing the impact of large-scale solar projects upon property values, Oltramari said it lacked clarity and detail, noting that it was just one sentence. The section in question currently states:

Property Value and Taxpayer Protection: Tier 3 and Tier 4 Solar Energy Systems, once constructed and operational, shall not reduce the property value of adjacent parcels where a parcel owner is not in privity of contract with the applicant or its successors, agents or assigns.

Oltramari said that description “needs to be fleshed out some more” and said that without an appraisal before and after the project siting, it would be difficult to prove how much, if any, the value of the property had changed.

He said he realizes that the town consulted with attorneys to draft the plan and didn’t want to overstep their expertise, but he said he “had concerns about the clarity and the practicality of having something like that that can’t really be enforced.”

On the use of prime farmland, Oltramari said he understands the reasoning behind limiting projects to no more than 10 percent of prime farmland – as is the case of the 280-megawatt Excelsior Solar Project under Article 10 of New York State law – but he believes the proposed local law doesn’t go far enough in its description of prime farmland.

He said a local resident mentioned a soil survey that determines how much prime farmland is in the town, specifically noting a category called “prime if drained.”

“That means that if the landowner puts in what they call tiling – drainage to make the soil drain better, then the land becomes prime farm if those improvements are made to the fields,” he said. “But whether or not the field is tiled, only the property owner knows and maybe a few others. You would have to know how much of that farmland is actually drained. If you don’t know that, you don’t know the full percentage of prime farmland in the town.”

Oltramari said he expects the Byron Town Planning Board to review the proposal and issue recommendations to the town board, and hopefully will take a look at those two sections.

County planners briefly discussed NextEra Energy Resources’ 1,700-acre Excelsior project that is in the hands of the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment.

While Oltramari said large solar arrays such as this “are supposed to adhere to local regulations,” Article 10 – and now the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act -- supersedes local planning board authority.

In other action, planners:

  • Approved a special use permit and downtown design review for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative project to renovate the Main Street Pizza building at 206 E. Main St.

As first reported on The Batavian, applicant Paul Marchese, doing business as Just Chez Realty LLC, submitted plans to create two apartments on the second floor and change the exterior of the building at 206 E. Main St.

The only stipulation in the planners’ approval was that the project meets Enhanced 9-1-1* standards.

Marchese’s request now will go before the City Planning & Development Committee, likely at its Oct. 20 meeting.

  • Approved a zoning map change request from R-1 (residential) to C-2 (commercial) by James Barsaloux to offer local craft beer, food and live music, at his farm market operation at 8041 E. Main Road, Le Roy.

Oltramari said the Town of Le Roy’s comprehensive plan indicates acceptance of a mix of residential and commercial operations in its future land use.

Planners said they were concerned about traffic and noise, and hoped that the town would conduct a proper review of the site plan and special use permit to mitigate any potential problems.

Barsaloux said that he intends to have live music only a couple nights per month and no later than 9 p.m., adding that he wants to keep “a family atmosphere … not another bar.”

  • Approved a special use permit request from John Kula of Freedom Fellowship LLC, for a 3,200-square-foot three-bay auto repair garage and print shop at 254 Broadway Road (Route 20).

The project came before planners in August, when they granted an area variance for the public garage, which will be set up as a vocational training site for people in recovery from substance use disorders.

*Enhanced 911, E-911 or E911 is a system used in North America to automatically provide the caller's location to 9-1-1 dispatchers. 911 is the universal emergency telephone number in the region.

Previously: County planning agenda includes special use permit referral for Main Street Pizza building.

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