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September 22, 2021 - 10:35am

Town of Batavia to put pressure on solar firms to maintain proper screening; committee meeting set for Thursday

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Not looking to branch out into the landscaping business, the Town of Batavia is taking steps to put the onus on solar companies to make sure their community solar projects are maintained and screened according to signed agreements with the town.

“We want to be green friendly but also want those who we do approve to stand up for exactly what they told us and informed us they would do,” said Town Building Inspector Daniel Lang at Tuesday night’s Town of Batavia Planning Board meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

After hearing about modifications being made to the proposed Trousdale Solar twin 5-megawatt and 4-megawatt projects on Ellicott Street Road, one of them which addressed buffering the site from neighbors’ views, the board heard an update from Lang about issues at current solar farms.

Lang brought up the possibility of requiring solar companies to sign a landscaping bond, which would make them legally responsible for initial planting and regular maintenance of trees, berms and plants to ensure proper screening.

“It’s a code enforcement nightmare to maintain and ride around and figure out how many trees, what trees are dead, what trees are dying, when the best time to plant is,” he said, advising that the town’s solar committee will be meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Town Hall to address these and other topics as it moves toward adopting a new solar ordinance.

He said a landscaping bond could be a way to solve the problem of unscreened solar sites by giving the town the necessary leverage.

“Right now, we don’t have the teeth other than letting them (solar companies) know that we’re going to pull their certificate of occupancy, certificate of compliance or shut them down,” he said.

Lang said Thursday’s meeting, which is open to the public, is expected to include representatives of the Wendel engineering firm, New York State Soil and Water Conservation and, possibly via Zoom, Ian Latimer, project manager for NYS Energy Research and Development Authority.

Currently, town employees have been dealing with plantings and stone issues at a few solar farms, Lang said.

Planning Board member Steve Tanner suggested requiring a special use permit for future projects, with Lang noting that could be an option.

ELLICOTT STREET CHANGES ADVANCED

mark.jpgMark Sweeney of Albany, attorney for the Trousdale Solar venture on property owned by Planning Board member Don Partridge on Ellicott Street Road, provided an update on changes in two areas: the number of poles on the site and what he called “enhanced landscaping” measures.

Partridge recused himself from the conversation; no voting was conducted.

“We’re here basically to talk about how we’re trying to satisfy the conditions of approval for the project that you gave previously … in March or April 2020,” Sweeney said.

On the first modification, Sweeney (photo at right) said the goal is to ground mount as much equipment as possible. After meeting with and obtaining approval from National Grid, he proposed a plan showing a total of four poles.

Originally, the design had seven poles, he said, three to handle solar company Cypress Creek (Renewable’s) equipment and four for National Grid’s equipment.

Since then, developers were able to ground mount “both of the mutes – one for Cypress Creek and one for the utility company – and eliminate one pole altogether,” Sweeney said.

As far as screening is concerned, he said landscaping is proposed at the entrances and across any current gaps between trees, and a one-foot berm will be used to elevate the plants. He said the revision includes a “specific planting plan” outlining the types of species, sizes and numbers – with the company obligated to replace plants as needed.

Sweeney also said the solar company is willing to agree to a decommissioning bond (to be in force at the end of the project’s cycle). Lang advised him to work with Town Attorney Andrew Meier on completing the proper form.

Tanner said he supported decreasing the number of poles to four, although planners were hoping that number to drop to three.

“It’s definitely a good reduction,” he said. “Much better than it was.”

NY BUS SALES PRESENTS ITS PLAN

Lauren Rodriguez, civil engineer with LaBella Associates, and John Johnston, vice president of New York Bus Sales, opened the meeting with a brief presentation of the school bus company’s plan to place a 20,000-plus-square foot facility at the corner of West Saile Drive and Call Parkway.

The operation is set to be built on two parcels, covering 6.9 acres, in an area currently zoned both Industrial and Commercial. Rodriguez said they wish to combine the parcels into one Commercial zone, which does fit into the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Details of the site plan are as follows:

  • Three entrances – two off of West Saile Drive and one off of Call Parkway, with passenger vehicles (employees and others) to use the eastern entrance off West Saile Drive; bus deliveries and tractor-trailers heading for the loading dock would use the other entrances.
  • The area around the building will be paved; the area used for parking of the buses will be gravel.
  • The site will accommodate 20 passenger vehicles and 180 buses.
  • Security lighting will be installed, along with a fence around the property and gates at the entrances. The stormwater facility will be located at the south end of the lot.

Johnston, who gave a more extensive report to the Genesee County Economic Development Center on Sept. 9, said NY Bus Sales receives school buses from the factory, prepares them, adds options if required and then – after inspection by the state Department of Transportation – delivers them to local school districts.

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski advised them the board will take up the matter again next month to review the site plan and conduct the State Environmental Quality Review.

Prior to that, the proposal will be heard by the Genesee County Planning Board and be the subject of a public hearing held by the GCEDC, which is offering $430,120 in tax abatements.

The company’s total capital investment is estimated at $4.5 million. The project is expected to create 24 additional full-time equivalent jobs paying $30,000 to $75,000 annually by year three.

Previously: GCEDC board of directors accepts application for New York Bus Sales facility in Town of Batavia

Photo at top: Town Building Inspector Daniel Lang at Tuesday night's Town Planning Board meeting. Photo by Alecia Kaus.

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