Town planners 'plant a seed' for solar farm developers, other communities to follow
The Batavia Town Planning Board has a new and permanent message for developers of ground-mounted solar farms – “run for cover.”
Planners, at their monthly meeting tonight at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road, voted unanimously to adopt the document, “Solar Array Pollinator Habitat Planting Guidelines,” prepared by the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District and to incorporate the guidelines into the required special use permit.
“I feel that we’re being proactive here and we welcome other communities to contact Soil & Water if they wish to utilize these guidelines,” said Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski.
Two weeks ago, the board heard a presentation from Bradley Mudrzynski, district manager for GCSWCD, who drafted a proposal covering topics related to the pollination and ground cover of the solar array.
The document’s topics include the need for and development of planting guidelines, site preparation, species mix, area required for planting, maintenance and performance standards.
The board was concerned about the percentage of the solar farm that should be planted, settling on 80 percent of the acreage inside the fenced-in area.
The guidelines call for a minimum of 80 percent of the solar area located within the fenced limits to be planted to perennial native vegetation, while the remaining 20 percent of the area is allowed to be maintained roadways, accessory structures, concrete pads, etc., necessary for management and maintenance of the solar array.
The document also requires mowing two to three times per growing season for the first two growing seasons to kill fast-growing annual weeds.
Prior to the official adoption of the planting guidelines, planners fielded questions from Daniel Yanosh and Tom Healy, project managers for a proposed 19.8-acre, 4-megawatt solar farm at 3565 Galloway Road, about the required percentage of pollination within the fenced-in area.
Yanosh and Healy were back in front of the board for a third time as they sought a special use permit and site plan review approval to move ahead.
Healy asked in a couple of different ways if area outside the fence could be considered when figuring the ground cover percentage, but was met with the same response: 80 percent of the area within the fenced-in area must be seeded with some sort of flowering vegetation.
Previously, Yanosh and Healy reported that they had made revisions to the site plan requested by the board (more screening with trees). Last night, they said they will be working with National Grid to keep the number of utility poles to a minimum.
Their latest information was enough to earn unanimous favorable votes on both the special use permit and site plan, with both measures contingent upon a final engineering review, adherence to the new pollinator guidelines and acquisition of a decommissioning bond.
Jasinski noted that the pollinator guidelines will apply to ground-mounted solar farms already in operation in the Town, with inspections by the zoning department being scheduled.
Photo: Daniel Yanosh, left, and Tom Healy speak to town planners about their Galloway Road solar farm project. Photo by Mike Pettinella.