Skip to main content

Batavia Town Planning Board

Town planners field comments on biogas, racetrack projects; hear update on Byrne Dairy proposal

By Mike Pettinella

An employee of the company that owns and operates the Synergy Biogas manure digesting facility in Wyoming County on Tuesday night downplayed concerns over potential odors from a proposed renewable gas facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on the east side of Batavia.

Speaking at the Batavia Town Planning Board meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road, Melissa Franklin, technical sales & services representative, responded to local resident Wayne Nichols’ belief that the Genesee Biogas plant would cause a stink, literally.

“This is a different plant than Synergy. This will have camlock fittings and a different air system, and it will be confined,” Gilbert said. “Synergy is very different than this one.”

Nichols said he owns farmland near the site of the project but does not live in the area. He said he is looking out for those who live on Batavia Stafford Townline Road and others in the vicinity.

“I’ve worked in the ag industry for 70 years and there is no such thing as a confined system,” he said at the public hearing.

Lauren Toretta, president of CH4 Biogas, which is seeking a special use permit to build the facility, said the plan is to construct “an environmentally and economically beneficial project.”

She said having a renewable gas facility closer to O-AT-KA Milk Products, HP Hood and Upstate Niagara will mean trucks won’t have to drive as far to dispose of the waste.

CH4 Biogas proposes to construct and operate a plant consisting of two digesters, a gas storage tank and associated equipment for the purpose of digesting organic wastes to produce renewable natural gas and/or electricity and heat.

A utility corridor consisting of waste force main lines, electrical lines and water lines will run from each of the main waste stream plants to the facility.

Toretta said a small portion of the waste stream will be received by truck delivery.

Nichols said his wish is that they find a different location, farther from the city limits.

“It’s not as clean as we think,” he said. “There are sometimes when I come in on Ellicott Street into Batavia, if the wind is out of the east, when you get down by the old Sylvania plant, and the smell coming from O-AT-KA is putrid. It stinks.”

In other action, the board:

-- Conducted a public hearing concerning a special use permit application from Jason Bonsignore of East Coast Speedway to open and operate a racetrack on the former Polar Wave property at 3500 Harloff Rd. in a commercial/recreation district.

Bonsignore cited his company’s “good track record” over 28 years and promised a family-friendly facility that would “fill a niche” for dirt bike and go-kart enthusiasts. While several people supported his project, a woman and man who live nearby said they objected to the amount of noise and the increase in traffic.

The former National Hockey League player went on to say that his track will be quieter than the neighboring Area 51 motocross track and will operate on one night a week for practice, on Fridays until 11 p.m. and, occasionally, on Saturdays.

-- Received an update on the Byrne Dairy project on Lewiston Road, near the First United Methodist Church, from Christian Brunelle, senior executive vice president of Sonbyrne Sales, Inc.

Brunelle said he has revised the site plan to address the Genesee County Planning Department’s recommendations focusing on walkability and the positioning of the building.

He said changes include shifting the building to the south, toward the new Rumsey Road; moving parking spaces, adding picnic tables on a concrete patio; adding a sidewalk, and moving the stormwater drainage to the east, behind the store.

Brunelle also said the company understands that the New York State Department of Transportation is requiring a left turn lane into the property for vehicles heading south on Route 63 and that Byrne Dairy will install a white “greeting fence” along Route 63.

The proposed dairy would be situated in a development that will include a new Tractor Supply store.

Town planners set public hearings for solar farm, motocross, snow equipment storage, biogas projects

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Planning Board on Tuesday night set public hearings for four projects, including a 5-megawatt ground-mounted commercial solar system on a large agricultural parcel at 9327 Wortendyke Rd.

Speaking at the board’s meeting at the Batavia Town Hall, Will Nieles, project developer representing New Leaf Energy said the solar array will cover about 15.7 acres of a 51.3-acre field in an Agricultural-Residential zoned district.

The application has been submitted by Judy Green/Wortendyke Road Solar 1, LLC. Previously, the project was recommended for approval by the Genesee County Planning Board.

Nieles said the site was selected due to its extensive natural screening, noting that no major tree clearing will be needed. Marc Kenward of Erdman Anthony engineering suggested that the board conduct a visual simulation to see how the solar farm will look years ahead.

Kacey Rose, also of Erdman Anthony, said that all setbacks are within town zoning requirements, and that none of the land designated as wetlands will be affected. She added that trucks will be coming and going from the site about 25 times per day during construction.

The board scheduled the public hearing for 7:15 p.m. on May 21. It also called for a State Environmental Quality Review, site plan review and special use permit.

In other action, the board:

-- Set a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. on May 7 to consider a special use permit and conduct a SEQR for East Coast Speedway’s plan to reopen a motocross track on the grounds of the former Polar Wave on Harloff Road. 

Jason Bonsignore of East Coast Speedway said the project has been modified to include one parcel of land – instead of the original proposal of two parcels – in an effort to bring the motorcycle, ATV and go-kart track back “exactly as years ago.”

The board is requiring a special use permit for the project to go forward.

-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. on May 21 in conjunction with a request by Peter Yasses of Byron to obtain a special use permit to construct a 100-foot by 50-foot storage facility at 8887 Alexander Rd. to store his loaders and snow removal equipment.

Yasses said he does much snow removal work in Batavia and has found it difficult to go back and forth to Byron.

“I rent space now in the city. I’d like to own something,” he said.

He also is seeking a build a 30x30 enclosed salt shed and will have a couple small piles of top soil on the land that he plans to purchase.

The board voted to conduct a SEQR and seek lead agency status for the proposal.

-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. on May 7 in connection with the proposed CH4 Biogas plant at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. 

Discussion centered around compiling a list of comments from regulatory agencies, the planning board and others to submit to the applicants prior to the board hearing from town residents on May 7.

County Planning Department pushes 'gas backwards' idea for Byrne Dairy's Route 63 proposal

By Mike Pettinella
master plan
Master plan for a parcel along Lewiston Road (Route 63) in the Town of Batavia shows a mix of commercial (orange) and residential (green) sites. 

Due to a lack of a quorum on Thursday night, recommendations by the Genesee County Planning Department staff – and not the county Planning Board – have been issued for the six referrals that were on the agenda.

The most notable of the applications was one from Sonbyrne Sales Inc. (Byrne Dairy), which is seeking a special use permit and site plan review for a new convenience store and gas station on Lewiston Road (Route 63) in the Town of Batavia.

Planning Department Director Felipe Oltramari, in an email sent after last night’s meeting to Batavia Town Planning Board members, indicated that he was recommending disapproval of Sonbyrne Sales’ proposal because it doesn’t fit well with the town’s decision to tag that large parcel near the First United Methodist Church as a Certified Smart Growth Reserved Development Area.

Furthermore, in the email, he noted that the planning department’s recommendation was “non-binding” because there was no quorum (four planning board members were present and five were needed to vote) and that all of the applications would now go back to the appropriate town/village planning boards.

“Since we didn’t have a meeting, the local boards can act within 30 days after sending us their referrals," Oltramari said. “We will not meet again in 30 days, so they don’t have to wait that long.”

In his explanation for disapproval of the Byrne Dairy referral, Oltramari wrote that “the master plan agreed to between the Town of Batavia and Genesee County had the intention of creating a pedestrian friendly environment.”


dairy site plan

Oltramari pointed out that Byrne Dairy’s current proposal has the gas pumps in front of the building, along Route 63 (see site plan above) and that conflicts with the town’s master plan for that location.

He said the planning department has provided the town with an example of an “inverted gas station” with pumps behind the building “to illustrate the type of site configuration that would allow a convenience store/gas station to closely conform to what was envisioned for the site.

Earlier this week, he provided some background in a phone interview with The Batavian.

“In March of last year, the Town of Batavia made a development area certification application to the County for the entire field between the Thruway and Veterans Memorial Drive,” he said. “That field was not originally a Development Area in the County Smart Growth Plan. It was a piece of farmland that we wanted to protect.

“The town asked for it to be included as a development area, and it was approved with the caveat that it be reserved for pedestrian-oriented mixed-use development, something different than the car-oriented development on Veterans Memorial Drive.”

Oltramari said “the vision for this area” included property behind County Building 2 on West Main Street Road and the Batavia Town Hall all the way to the Thruway – a proposal called “Townville.”

“The certification of the development area would allow for any use to automatically get water hookups, that's what the Smart Growth really regulates. Outside of development areas you have to get permission to get a water hookup; it is not guaranteed,” he explained.


He went on to say the town’s action was triggered by Tractor Supply's desire to move from East Main Street Road to the west side of Batavia.

“They wanted the parcel, owned by Call Farms, with automatic water hookups,” he said.

Oltramari said the Calls sponsored the project and the master plan was created with the assistance of the Town of Batavia engineers and County Planning (see the green and orange rendering by Dynamic Engineers at top). Their proposal was for mixed uses, including two story Main Street buildings with residential in the upper floor, and a residential cul-de-sac with townhouses or other such housing.

Earlier this month at a Batavia Town Planning Board meeting, Christian Brunelle, senior executive vice president of Sonbyrne Sales, Inc., presented the company’s plan to develop the parcel in front of Tractor Supply.

Byrne Dairy wants to build a traditional gas station with parking and pump islands in front. But that doesn’t fit the master plan that was used to certify the development area.

“The master plan calls for the building to be upfront and parking to the rear,” Oltramari said, adding that a future road, to be known as Rumsey Road, would run from behind Home Depot through the new development to Route 63.


gas backwards

Oltramari said that the inverted gas station approach would provide a “nice little gateway” into the development.

“The building would be up front and the pump islands behind it (see rendering above). The architect that drew it up called it ‘gas backwards,’” he said.

“I think to have a nice building instead of a gas station up front in that corner (along Route 63) would make that whole development look better in the future. It would also have the added benefit of buffering current and future neighboring residential properties from the sights and smells related to the gas sales part of the operation.”

The Byrne Dairy proposal now will go back to the Batavia Town Planning board for consideration, likely in early April since the board’s March 19 meeting has been cancelled.

In other action, the planning department recommends approval of a special use permit for Gordon and Denise Linsey to operate a coffee shop at 6520 Knowlesville Rd. in the Town of Alabama.

The Linseys said they want to renovate the space that has been used as a gift shop for the past 10 years at the former St. Patrick’s Church. Their application states that they will offer deli/breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, soup and smoothies in addition to coffee and beverages. 

Town of Batavia planners set public hearings for motocross, apartment projects

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Planning Board on Tuesday night scheduled a pair of special use permit public hearings for Feb. 6 – one for the reopening of a motocross track on Harloff Road and the other for the addition of a third apartment at a former church building at the intersection of Slusser Road and Main Road.

Jason Bonsignore, a former National Hockey League player and current auto/motorcycle racing promoter, is looking to restore a couple properties and operate what used to be Kelly’s Motorsports on the weekends, hopefully starting this spring.

Bonsignore came to the planning board several weeks ago with his proposal and returned to the Batavia Town Hall last night to receive word that a public hearing would be set.  He has been working with town engineers and zoning officers on a revised site plan that would pave the way to conduct racing of motorcycles, ATVs and go-karts.

Apparently, two 22-acre and 17-acre properties were purchased a couple years ago by Michael Lauterborn, a longtime friend of Bonsignore, after sitting vacant for nearly 15 years.

Bonsignore’s racing ventures are Action Park East Speedway in Greene (Chenango County) and Champion Speedway in Owego (Tioga County).

The Rochester native has been a part of the speedway scene for 28 years following a long pro hockey career that included stints with the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Town Hall.

City of Batavia resident Wesley Winters is seeking a special use permit to add a three-bedroom apartment to the former Presbyterian church at 8591 Slusser Rd. in what is termed the Hamlet Commercial District.

His proposal was recommended for approval last week by the Genesee County Planning Board, with the following modifications:

-- The applicant eliminates two parking spots in the parking plan as they are located within the right-of way of Slusser Rd;

-- The applicant obtains approval/documentation from the Genesee County Health Department regarding the adequacy of the septic system for the additional unit.

Winters said the building has housed two two-bedroom apartments since 1975. He said he has been working on the outside of the building for the past five years and will be doing all of the interior renovations himself.

His public hearing is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Town Hall.

Town planners approve changes to Oak Orchard Road 5MW solar project site plan

By Mike Pettinella

A senior associate with a Rochester-based engineering firm on Tuesday night updated the Batavia Town Planning Board on a proposed solar project on Oak Orchard Road, outlining four changes from the site plan that originally was submitted nearly a year ago.

Marc Kenward of Erdman Anthony LLC, representing New Leaf Energy of Lowell, Mass., said revisions have been made in four areas – type of solar panels, potential glare, the entrance to the array and location of National Grid’s inner-connection service line.

The plan is to place a 5-megawatt solar farm on 20 acres at 7757 Oak Orchard Rd., property owned by Batavia businessman and farmer Tim Call. As initially presented, the solar installation will go on an 85.5-acre parcel just south of Daws Corners on Route 98.

The large tract already contains a 15-acre solar farm, which will share its existing entrance with the New Leaf Energy project, Kenward told the board during the meeting at the Batavia Town Hall of West Main Street Road.

Kenward, working off a large drawing of the area in question, said that “the company that owns the array out back – we’re still waiting on that signed agreement to use this existing entrance, which we were rather forced to do because the DOT (state Department of Transportation) only allows one entrance to a parcel like this.”

Earlier, he informed the board that the New Leaf Energy project is switching from “fixed” solar panels to what he called “trackers” that move “and follow the sun the whole day.” The trackers will be placed in a north-south direction, unlike the fixed panels that were lined up in an east-west direction.

He said a glare study was conducted about three months ago and has been deemed “satisfactory” and that the National Grid inner-connection was moved south by about 80 to 100 fee to become perpendicular with Route 98. A turnaround for National Grid trucks to maneuver also has been added.

Following his 11-minute update, the board unanimously voted to approve the revised site plan. Work on the property is several months away, Kenward noted, added that construction plans need to be drawn up.

'Don't do that to us.' Town resident wary of odor from proposed Ag Park waste digester

By Mike Pettinella

A Town of Batavia resident and business owner reiterated his objections Tuesday night to a proposed Genesee Biogas plant earmarked for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park but, once again, project developers attempted to alleviate his concerns over the smell of its emissions.

Speaking at the Batavia Town Planning Board meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road, Eric Biscaro questioned Lauren Toretta, president of CH4 Biogas, and Sara Gilbert of Pinewood Engineering, about the extent of the odor from the facility, which is set to be constructed on Ag Park Drive, not far away from Ellicott Street Road.

“If you go by O-AT-KA (Milk Products Cooperative) on lots of given days, the odor there is enough to … it’s bad,” Biscaro said. “So, it’s seems that it would be more intense at your place if you’re going to bring it over from O-AT-KA and (HP) Hood and Upstate (Niagara Cooperative). If you’re going to be worse than O-AT-KA, then I’m going to tell you that I’m going 100 percent against this.”

Biscaro mentioned his neighbors on Ellicott Street Road and also those on Shepard Road when he added, “We really don’t want you to do that to us.”

The scene mirrored what played out six months ago when Biscaro, as a member of the Genesee County Planning Board, voiced his opposition to the digester based on the potential odor.

Last night, as was the case in May, Gilbert and Toretta, responded by stating that measures are in place to mitigate the smell as the digester handles sanitary waste primarily from the three Ag Park enterprises.

Gilbert said the digester storage tanks feature a process that is “entirely enclosed,” unlike the system at O-AT-KA that has open air containers where “odors can get into the air and get wind dispersed.”

“It is an enclosed process, it has odor filtration, and we also have an odor mitigation plan that we’ve started to prepare if there’s a breakdown in the process; a way to identify it and rectify it,” she said.

Toretta called the digester, which was first proposed about nine years ago, a “next level” project and a “landmark facility” that comes with numerous technological advances.

Biscaro then brought up the placement of the facility and wondered why it couldn’t be shifted further north on Ag Park Drive, closer to HP Hood and Upstate and farther away from people’s homes.

“This is the parcel that the Ag Park asked us to be on,” Toretta replied, noting that Hood is planning an expansion and has use for more of its property. “We also oriented the site as far from the road as possible, up against the tree line …”

Prior to Biscaro’s comments, Gilbert updated planners on the project, emphasizing that waste from the food processing plants will be shipped to lagoons approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and not to the City of Batavia wastewater treatment plant.

She said the waste is deemed by the DEC as “good material for fertilizer.”

Gilbert addressed other key points such as making sure the project aligns with federal requirements concerning environmental impact, stormwater treatment, water usage, truck traffic and wildlife protection.

She noted that county planners have recommended approval of a height variance for the storage tanks, and that the next step is to return to the Town Planning Board to take on the State Environmental Quality Review process.

Batavia town planners approve Country Line Electrical storage building site plan

By Mike Pettinella


The Batavia Town Planning Board met for 4 ½ minutes on Tuesday night, just enough time to unanimously pass a site plan from Country Line Electrical Distributors, Inc. to construct an accessory building on its East Main Street Road property.

William Massett, business owner, submitted the proposal to build a 12- by 84-foot open air pipe storage building in the Commercial district at 5065 East Main St. Rd. The plan previously was recommended for approval by the Genesee County Planning Board.

Initially, the project calls for the construction of a roof in case of rain to make it easier for loading and unloading, said Jennifer Massett, who was at the meeting. She said that owners eventually will fence it in for safety and security.

That was the only item on the board’s agenda.

Town planners: solar law process is on the right track

By Mike Pettinella

Members of the Batavia Town Planning Board are giving high marks to the committee that has been working on revising the town’s solar law over the past few months.

Planners discussed the committee’s progress at their meeting Tuesday night, agreeing that the latest draft presented to the public – while in need of a few tweaks – represents a major step toward rules and regulations that remove most of the guesswork for those desiring to install solar farms and for their neighbors.

“It’s a roadmap for developers .. the rules are pretty straightforward,” said board member Steve Tanner, one of four planning board members on the committee (the others being Don Partridge, Paul McCullough and Brittany Witkop).

Tanner said that guidelines concerning landscaping, screening, setbacks, fencing and size of the project will make it easier for solar companies to develop their proposals.

McCullough concurred, stating that a law that is documented and codified will leave “very little interpretation as to what can and cannot happen.”

Witkop and Partridge said they appreciated input from the public – with Witkop noting that the group is looking to modify some of the setback requirements as a result of comments from citizens at an informational session last month.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang termed changing some of the setbacks “a realistic vision” and said the process is nearing the point of conducting a State Environmental Quality Review, public hearing and county review.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said that he reviewed the proposed solar law as well.

“It included all of the circumstances and ambiguities we’ve seen over the past five years,” he said.

Committee Chair Chad Zambito, a town council member, has indicated a final draft will be ready in a couple weeks.

In other Town of Batavia news, Supervisor Gregory Post reported that 11 building permits for residential homes were issued in 2021, with an assessed value of $4.1 million, and that 26 commercial/industrial permits were issued, “which generated several tens of millions of dollars in assessed value.”

Post said that projects on Route 98, Park Road and King’s Plaza (water main) as well as meter renewal are ramping up, leading to a “positive forecast for the community’s economic portfolio …”

Also, the Town Board voted to continue its support of the Batavia Soccer Park on Bank Street Road at the $10,000 annual level for two more years.

Previously: Town solar committee asked to 'revisit' setback distances

Town planners OK special use permit for NY Bus Sales

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Planning Board tonight approved a special use permit for New York Bus Sales to operate a school bus service and sales facility at 4450 West Saile Drive -- located at the intersection of Call Parkway.

After the board declared lead agency status for the State Environmental Quality Review, member Steve Tanner went through the items on the form and then made a motion to accept it. The board agreed, issuing a “negative declaration” that denotes that the project would have no significant adverse impact upon the environment.

Lauren Rodriguez, civil engineer with LaBella Associates, asked the board about the company’s desire to merge two parcels, covering 6.9 acres, into one, and Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski replied that the Batavia Town Board is expected to rule on that at its meeting on Wednesday night.

The 20,000-plus square-foot facility is going into an area currently zoned both Industrial and Commercial. The company is looking for the town to rezone it as Commercial, an allowable action since it does fit into the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

New York Bus Sales Vice President James Johnston, who also attended the meeting, said plans call for a groundbreaking ceremony before winter.

Rodriguez and Johnson initially presented the plan to the town planning board in September. Prior to that, the company applied for tax abatements from the Genesee County Economic Development Center, and is waiting for the GCEDC's board decision in the near future.

In other action, the board issued a negative declaration for a SEQR in connection with Pierrepoint Visual Graphics’ request to place signage at the site of medical offices for UR Medicine in the Gateway II Industrial Park on Call Parkway.

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

Town of Batavia planners ask Hickory Ridge Estate developers to submit all-inclusive site plan

By Mike Pettinella


The Batavia Town Planning Board wants to see “a big idea” before passing judgment on developers David and Katie Ficarella’s proposal to construct what they are calling the Hickory Ridge Estates senior housing complex on the north side of Route 33 (Pearl Street Road), just over a mile west of the City of Batavia limits.

The Ficarellas, along with engineer John Schenne of Schenne & Associates, East Aurora, and general contractor Frank Lazarus of Lazarus Industries, Buffalo, appeared at the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night to re-introduce their plan, which is estimated to cost $17 million upon full buildout.

The Lovers Lane Road couple, about 4 ½ years ago, presented a somewhat different idea - a 110-unit senior residential site, working with Calamar Enterprises of Wheatfield.  That failed to materialize, however, and they are back with a new plan that they hope to build in three phases.

While David Ficarella said he hoped the board would review the site plan of Phase 1 at this time – and deal with future phases later, Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski and Town Engineer Steve Mountain advised that the project needed to be submitted in its entirety.

“You can make it smaller if you want to later, but it’s better to do it all as a big idea,” Jasinski said.

Mountain concurred, stating that “the biggest thing that we need in order for the planning board to do a SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) is exactly what this project and any future phases entail.”


“The site plan … is more than sufficient to bring to the planning board. What we need now is ‘What’s the concept on Phase 1? Phase 2, and where’s the off-site sewer going,” he added. “Any improvements that are part of the project now or in the future have to be identified so they can look at the project as a whole under the environmental review.”

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said he has received Ficarella’s application, but won’t be able to forward it to the Genesee County Planning Board until the entire subdivision process is complete.

Mountain noted that the planning board needs to see where public roads will be put in, the location of private roadway, plans for private sewer and connecting to public sewer infrastructure, along with information about traffic flow.

The Ficarellas said that Phase 1 will consist of the construction of 40 duplex rentals for tenants age 55 and over on 20.629 acres, located across from Donahue Road, and stretching west along the state highway. All of the units will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Phase 2 calls for an additional 10 duplex rental units on 7 acres just north of the first phase, beyond the National Grid right-of-way that has been identified as a future extension of the Ellicott Trail.

Phase 3 is construction of either rental or custom build homes on 40 acres – extending Donahue Road to the west end of Edgewood Drive, which is part of the Meadowbrook Estates development.


Schenne, who said he designed the Meadowbrook Estates subdivision for (the late) Gary McWethy about 15 years ago, explained that he is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to obtain wetlands permits as about 25 percent of the Phase 1 parcel is wetlands.

Currently, a pond exists on the site and two other ponds for stormwater will be created as required by state law to get a stormwater permit, he noted.

“We have to collect the stormwater, detain it, treat it and release it,” he said. “And we’re not allowed to do that in the wetlands.”

He said the Phase 1 site will drain to Route 33, where there is a large drainage channel along the road, and eventually all of the project ponds will be connected with underground storm pipes and drain tubing.

When asked if the units had basements, he said that would not be the case, adding that the site being flat and having a high groundwater table “really doesn’t lend itself to basements.”

Schenne said the proposal also includes about 3,000 linear feet of water line.

“Gravity sewers would connect through an adjacent property that Dave controls at this point – to the east – and connect to the Meadowbrook subdivision,” he said. “There’s a lift station there and our sewers would dump into sanitary sewers there and run through their lift station to get to the city treatment plant.”


All utilities, cable television and telephone lines will be underground, said Ficarella, adding that he is working out the logistics with the utility companies and Spectrum.

“Everything is underway. We’re waiting to break ground as soon as we can,” he said.

Lazarus said his company will provide cold-rolled steel to be used to frame the units, instead of lumber, to help the developers keep construction costs “consistent.”

“We use this in the commercial environment .. extensive use in the multi-family and commercial side of things,” he said. “It does have all the engineering requirements for residential … and it doesn’t affect the comfort of the home in any way, shape or form.”

Concerning Phase 3, planner Paul Marchese questioned the plan to connect to Edgewood Drive, pointing out that there currently is only one entrance to and exit from the road.

“Gary (McWethy) was given the permission to expand to some of those but the requirement was that he had to put that point of egress unto (Route) 33 but it never happened,” Marchese said.

Schenne replied that it didn’t happen due to the exorbitant cost of putting in the roads and utilities, but things are different now.

“With this big development going here, the need for a secondary egress for emergency vehicles, plus the fact that we have a force main that we want to run across there, makes a lot of sense to connect this up,” he said, as he distributed a map of a site plan showing nine additional building lots at the west end of Edgewood.


Jasinski said that there has been much discussion about extending Edgewood Drive, “but this is the first time that it looks like it’s going to happen.”

Ficarella mentioned putting a multi-use facility on 1.75 acres in the southwest corner of the Phase 1 development, possibly a fuel station or store. Currently, it is zoned Agricultural-Residential, and would need a special use permit.

He was advised to include that – as well as details about Phase 2 units as it pertains to the future Ellicott Trail extension -- in the site plan for the entire scope of the project.

“Again, you have to hone in on exactly what it is you’re going to build,” Mountain advised. “And once you know that, that’s when we can review everything.

“Essentially, you need a draft plat mat, so if there are going to be future public roads going to Edgewood, we need to see that layout. It doesn’t have to be a ton of engineering, but it has to be enough to know that it will work – and it all has to be laid out so we can review everything.”

Schenne said that he expects to have the requested drawings done by the planning board’s September meeting.


In other action, planners approved placement of a sign and the site plan for Zambito Realtors to open an office in a house the company recently purchased at 8329 Lewiston Rd., across the street from Applebee’s.

Lang said the sign would be placed 36 feet from the road and out of the right-of-way, and the site plan meets all existing town zoning regulations.

Owned by Rita Zambito and her son, Mark, the agency has three other locations – the main office in Medina and offices in Lockport and Orchard Park. Rita Zambito said about seven real estate agents will be working out of the Batavia site.

The renovation project includes siding, windows and removal of a breezeway to make room for a handicap ramp. Future plans call for widening the driveway to allow for more parking.

Photo: Presenting the Hickory Ridge Estates development proposal to the Batavia Town Planning Board last night are, from left, David and Katie Ficarella, and John Schenne. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: Lovers Lane Road couple's senior housing development off Pearl Street Road is back on the table | The Batavian

Screening projections in hand, Batavia town planners approve solar farm for land off R. Stephen Hawley Drive

By Mike Pettinella


After waiting nearly three months for visual screening projections from representatives of a proposed 1.65-megawatt solar system on land owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp., the Batavia Town Planning Board got its wish Tuesday night and then took only 12 minutes to approve the site plan and special use permit for the project.

James Taravella, senior civil engineer with LaBella Associates in Orchard Park, had the visualizations in hand as he appeared before the board at its monthly meeting at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The venture, known as Batavia Solar LLC, calls for the placement of the ground-mounted solar farm at 99 Med Tech Drive, off R. Stephen Hawley Drive across from Genesee Community College.

Taravella showed photos from three different vantage points – east of the property of Robert and Michelle Wood, who reside just east of the site; the corner of R. Stephen Hawley Drive, and the Med Tech Building parking lot. The photos depicted the location as it looks now, the expected condition at the time of planting, and projections five years from now and 10 years from now.

He also said he talked with the Woods earlier in the day and said the couple will be involved in the screening process throughout the project life.

“As we’re out there, they’re more than welcome to say, ‘Hey, can you move that over?’, and they can have direct input on their actual final placement because it’s right by their house,” Taravella said. “One of the things Michelle made really clear was that she would rather have this than have Benderson come in and build a plaza behind her house.”

Planning board member Steve Tanner said he appreciated the simulations but the solar panels, being on a perched hill, will be visible.

“No matter what you do, when you drive down the road, it’s still going to be there and you’re still going to see it,” he said, comparing it to the solar farm on Batavia-Elba Townline Road that is in plain sight.

Following Taravella’s brief presentation, planners accepted the site plan contingent upon town engineering approval and a decommissioning bond, and the special use permit that includes regular maintenance and the installation of no more than three utility poles.

Board approval had been delayed – and tabled -- three times due to the fact that the visual screening projections had not been submitted.

Photo: View from Med Tech Building parking lot, looking east. The Robert and Michelle Wood residence on Batavia Stafford Townline Road can be seen in the background. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

With shooting range in doubt, Lewis aims for campground, drive-in at Town of Batavia location

By Mike Pettinella

While not giving up on the Town of Batavia location completely, Brandon Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, figures he’s fighting a losing battle as far as developing an outdoor shooting range at the 22-acre parcel he owns at 3269 Harloff Road.

Acknowledging restrictions that come with the necessary special use permit from the Town of Batavia Planning Board and solid opposition from homeowners in that area, Lewis said he is changing up his game plan for the property.

“We’re going to move forward with some of our other business ventures as it does look less and less likely every day (that a shooting range will become a reality there) just because of the requirements set forth by the town,” Lewis said on Monday afternoon.

“(The revised plan) would include some of the other ideas I had, maybe not as full bore as I wanted to. I do like the property and I would like to keep it.”

Lewis, a Brockport resident who grew up in Genesee County, introduced his idea to place a shooting range/training facility, modest drive-in movie theater and small campground in March to the Genesee County Planning Board.

Since then, he has appeared before the town planning board on a few occasions but the proposal has been stuck in the mud for several reasons: planners’ justifiable request for specific details of Lewis’ plan; Lewis’ questioning of the constraints of the special use permit and; most notably, Harloff Road area residents’ objections to the shooting range over, primarily, noise and safety concerns.

“It’s not so much the town, but I don’t want to run a business where every neighbor is pitting against me,” Lewis said. “That’s certainly not how my shop in Bergen is. I think the community quite likes us out there.”

He said he understands the planning board is “just trying to do their duty” but isn’t ready to invest several hundred thousand dollars in an unreceptive environment.

“I just think no matter what I do, the residents – the locals – are just going to be against it. My neighbor here, Chris (Mosier) at Area 51. He’s been there how many years? And they’re giving him trouble, too,” he said.

Lewis said he continues to look into how he can proceed with the campground and drive-in ventures.

“The camping was never intended to be a 200 or 300 spot campsite. It will be like 20 spots at the most, and will be like dry camping or boondocking, basically,” he said. “It’s just a spot to do it inexpensively. There won’t be sewer. A lot of people questioned that project, too. Once we unveil the full project of it, they’ll see that there’s nothing to be worried about.”

On the drive-in, he said it could become a major undertaking.

“If you want to show current release movies, just the projection equipment alone is like $200,000 or $300,000, if not more,” he said. “Again, I’m not going to spend a half a million dollars needed to do everything to put in a drive-in, and then in a few years the neighbors say, ‘No, we don’t want it anymore,’ and they pull the special use permit.”

Lewis said he hasn’t contacted the planning board to have his referral placed on an agenda yet.

“I’m just regrouping – working with some of my other friends who are small business owners and seeing what kind of collaborations we can do together. I’m just trying to get something going out here so we can use the property and keep improving it,” he said.

As far as the outdoor shooting range is concerned, Lewis said he believes there is “a definite need” and he’s exploring other locations.

“We showed that there was a need for an indoor range like we offer (in Bergen) and I think the same thing – what we could do with an outdoor range, we still want to do,” he said. “We’re looking at properties that are more suited or better for us. If we can find a spot that’s great, we’re going to move forward with it. If anyone has land that could hold a 1,000-yard range, have them call me at (585) 494-0333.”

Previously: All jammed up. Shooting range proposal's lack of progress, commentary irritate Town of Batavia planners

Tabled again. Town planners still waiting for screening projections of solar project off R. Stephen Hawley Drive

By Mike Pettinella

The third time apparently wasn’t the charm for the Batavia Town Board in its quest to receive visual screening projections from Batavia Solar LLC for a ground-mounted, 1.65-megawatt solar systems on vacant land owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. at 99 Med Tech Drive.

The issue has delayed the project, which will be located off R. Stephen Hawley Drive across from Genesee Community College, for several months as planners have requested – thus far unsuccessfully – for the developer to provide projection pictures of the screening around the solar panels.

Planners, at their Tuesday night meeting, took the referral off the table, thinking they would be ruling on a special use permit. But after a discussion about the visuals, they voted to place it back on the table.

The planning board maintains that one-, five- and 10-year simulations of how the property will look with adequate screenings are necessary to ensure the system is out of sight from the neighboring property of Robert and Michelle Wood.

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski informed the board Tuesday that officials of the Genesee County Economic Development Center contacted her and indicated that the Woods “were agreeable to the (proposed) screening and they wondered if we could deal with this without doing the projection pictures.”

Planner Don Partridge said that he also talked to the couple.

“I feel we can get along without it (projection photos),” Partridge said. “(If)) they do a double row of pine trees there, I think that will be sufficient.”

His colleagues had different ideas, however.

Steven Tanner said he wanted to see how it would look, not only from Hawley Drive, but from other roads in the vicinity, and Jon Long agreed.

“We’ve requested it a couple times so I don’t think it’s that big of a cost to the project,” Long said. “And then we have it on file if there are any problems down the road.”

Paul McCullough said it would set “a dangerous precedent” by not obtaining the documentation, prompting Jeremy Liles to agree, before Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said he didn’t think it would be “appropriate to make exceptions.”

“I would remain consistent with everything we’ve done with every other solar. I suggest that we do require them to show us the actual detail,” Lang said.

As a result, a consensus to get the visualizations was reached, and all members, except Partridge, voted to put the referral back on the table once again.

Rising Water Levels at Ag Park

In another development, planners voted to adopt an amended version of the generic environmental impact statement for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on East Main Street Road in light of an increase in the daily amount of water being used at the facility.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain reported that the current water usage at the park, which is the home of HP Hood, has moved past the original 614,000 gallons per day threshold and that future projections put the usage at 1.8 million gallons per day.

“This is the first project that exceeded the original threshold in the generic environmental impact statement … by a significant amount,” Mountain said.

The project to which he was referring to is HP Hood’s installation of a 16-inch water main from the town line on Route 5 down to the Ag Park Drive entrance that will cross the road and tie into the park.

“That will be a direct connection to the Monroe County Water Authority water source,” Mountain said. “To date, all of the water has come directly out of the city on East Main and Cedar Street.”

Mountain said the reason for the change is “water chemistry.”

“The water authority water is very low in chlorides (low levels of chlorides prevent corrosion) and you can imagine how many pipes there are in the HP Hood facility. That will alleviate a lot of the corrosion issues that they’re having,” he explained.

While that will provide additional volume for the future, HP Hood also is building a new storage tank, which it will own. Mountain said the 16-inch water main will be dedicated to the Town of Batavia.

Mountain said the 1.8 million gallons per day level is the new threshold that is under consideration, adding that letters were sent out to involved agencies and businesses. He also noted that O-At-Ka Milk Products wishes to be included in the mix for more water.

He then advised planners it was up to them to determine whether they think it is a significant impact or a negative or minor impact (negative declaration). The board then voted to adopt a revision of the original finding statements for the Agri-Business Park as it pertains to the expanded water threshold.

Town of Batavia Planning Board OKs site plan for storage building at Dickinson's Auto; solar project on hold

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Planning Board, taking its lead from the Genesee County Planning Board and Batavia Town Zoning Board of Appeals, tonight approved a site plan for Bob Dickinson, owner of Dickinson’s Auto, to construct a truck storage building at his business at 4028 W. Main Street Road.

Dickinson had requested an area variance since the new building would be located 10 feet from the lot line instead of the required 30 feet in the Commercial District. County planners recommended approval of the variance last month, while the ZBA approved it at its meeting on Monday night.

“Mr. Dickinson is using the building to store trucks in the winter. He’s cleaned up the business … it looks good and I’m glad he’s doing what he is doing,” Town Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski said.

Town planners were scheduled to reconsider a special use permit request by Batavia Solar LLC for a ground-mounted solar system for the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. on R. Stephen Hawley Drive but did not take it “off the table” after learning that the solar firm wants further dialogue about the project.

A public hearing on the matter took place on Feb. 2 and the State Environmental Quality Review was completed on April 20.

In other developments:

  • Planners concurred with the ZBA, which last night approved an area variance for a modified parking space plan by Rochester Regional Health for a new 140,000-square-foot medical office building on Oak Orchard Road.

Consultants for RRH requested changing the parking spaces from 10- by 20-feet to 9- by 18-feet to allow for an access agreement with the town along the northern boundary of the site.

  • Jasinski set an onsite special use permit review for Area 51 Motocross on Harloff Road for 6 p.m. next Tuesday.

Town planners seek screening projections before they will issue special use permit for Med Tech Drive solar system

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Planning Board -- not satisfied with the answers they received regarding screening from a neighboring couple’s home – on Tuesday night tabled for a second time a proposal to install a ground-mounted solar system off R. Stephen Hawley Drive, across from Genesee Community College.

Batavia Solar LLC is looking to acquire a special use permit to construct the 1.65-megawatt system on vacant land at 99 Med Tech Drive, owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp., which has an office in the nearby Med Tech building.

Town planners requested Kaelyn Roche and Jim Taravella, project representatives, to provide one-, five- and 10-year simulations of how the property will look with adequate screenings, such as trees and berms, to obscure the solar panels from the sight of Robert and Michelle Wood, who live at 8244 Batavia Stafford Townline Road.

This is what the board had asked for during an April 20 site plan review and special use permit request consideration, when it tabled the proposal until this week’s meeting. Apparently, the information provided on Tuesday is still insufficient.

Roche, project development manager with YSG Solar in New York City, said that she spoke to Michelle Wood and reported that “we basically came to an agreement that we would work with her down the road and determine what works best for her.”

Taravella, an engineer with LaBella Associates, said that the plan is to plant 15 white spruce trees behind the Wood property, noting that the couple’s garage would also serve as a shield from the solar panels.

“As we near construction we can work with them if they want something other than white spruce,” he said.

During the ensuing discussion, planner Paul Marchese asked if the Woods were given the option to have berms placed on the site.

“I told them they could do whatever they wanted,” Roche replied.

Previously, during a Feb. 2 public hearing, Michelle Wood specifically requested berms:

“We really would like a berm put along the back of it – it protects us and our house. We’re OK and in favor of a solar farm there. We would prefer a solar farm versus a cement industrial building there, so we don’t have a real problem with it. We would just like for them to come to us with what their ideas are and what they’re planning to do.”

After Taravella pointed out that additional screening would be placed along the road to obscure it from traffic and that he would work to keep utility poles to a minimum (a planning board priority), Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski asked if it could be passed contingent upon Town Engineer Steve Mountain’s final review and approval.

Mountain and planner Jonathan Long brought up the need for visualizations – what the site would look like down the road, warning that it would be best to make sure everyone is on the same page before getting started.

All six planners at the meeting agreed, prompting Donald Partridge to recommend tabling the referral once again.

“I would like to see this tabled; I’m not ready to vote on it. I’d like to be able to talk to the Woods myself,” he said.

At that point, the board voted unanimously to table it and put it on the next agenda (May 18) as long as Taravella has enough time to provide the computer renderings requested.

The proposal calls for the installation of about 4,500 modules on the 7.95-acre parcel, of which 5.63 acres will be fenced in. Other aspects of the project include an access road with a 13- by 20-foot equipment pad and a 6 foot high chain-link fence around the entire layout. 

In other action, the board approved a special use permit for a drive-thru for the Chipotle restaurant to be put into the existing commercial building at 4222 Veterans Memorial Drive – in space formerly occupied by Metro Mattress.

Mountain said the drive-thru on the northwest side of the building would allow room for the stacking of five cars.

Matt Mahaney, town zoning ordinance compliance officer, said all building and zoning requirements have been met.

All jammed up. Shooting range proposal's lack of progress, commentary irritate Town of Batavia planners

By Mike Pettinella

Frustration and what seems to be a growing level of mistrust on all fronts have bubbled to the surface over a Brockport businessman’s proposal to develop an outdoor shooting range and entertainment venue on Harloff Road in the Town of Batavia.

Tuesday night’s Batavia Town Planning Board meeting revealed a standstill of Brandon Lewis’ bid to secure a special use permit to own and operate a shooting range for firearms’ training and competition, drive-in theater and small RV park on a 22-acre parcel at 3269 Harloff Road.

According to Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski, Lewis has yet to comply to a letter sent to him by the town engineer seeking information necessary for planners to make an informed decision.

“The letter outlined everything he needs to do,” Jasinski said, on the Zoom videoconference session. “He has a lot of reports to prove the safety and all of our questions, he has to answer them. And he has not made any effort yet, so we’ll have to wait until he starts producing the material we need.”

Although the proposal to place a shooting range in the vicinity of Area 51 Motocross was not on the evening’s agenda, it came up right away during the “public comments” portion of the meeting.

Lewis, a Genesee County native and owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, has been attempting to get town approval for the project since early March, when he gave an overview to the Genesee County Planning Board. Since then, residents living in the area have voiced their opposition while others -- both in and outside of the Town of Batavia -- have reached out to the planning board in support of the project.

Lewis: 'It's a Perfect Location'

Last night, Lewis attempted to address the concerns, primarily safety and noise, of those who live near the Harloff Road site.

He said the RV park will be small, not 130 campers as some people have said, and there will be no hook-ups, sewer or water. He also said hours of operation are negotiable and that all members of the shooting club would be certified range safety officers.

As far as shooting toward the Thruway, he pointed out that Four Points in Spencerport (actually Four Point Rod & Gun Club in Scottsville) customers “shoot directly toward the Thruway as well,” at the same distance, about 1,000 feet.

Lewis then said he believes the topography of the area, which is zoned for outdoor recreation use, is “a perfect location for a shooting range in the town” and meshes with the municipality’s comprehensive plan.

He then questioned the restraints of the special use permit.

“It is very difficult and will continue to be very difficult to get people to invest in businesses in that spot … very, very difficult to have any kind of investment in that area with that type of burden placed, where every year …” he said, before mentioning Area 51 owner Chris Mosier and the need for an annual review of the special use permit.

“He’s put $100,000 in labor alone in that facility. I intend to do the same and it’s going to be very difficult for me to justify that if I’m allowed to do something and then every year I have to fight to allow it to stay open.”

Taking Steps to Reduce the Noise

Lewis acknowledged that noise is a “primary concern,” but said he has several solutions, including planting trees around the perimeter of the property, placing berms in the direction of fire, angling the noise away from homes and putting a rifle’s muzzle into a culvert-type pipe to reduce the noise.

“And we have the safety issue covered (with) protocols and training standards in place, I think that people will see that safety is something that we have covered easily,” he added.

Lewis then asked if he could get copies of residents’ complaints (he was told that he would need to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the town clerk) and if he could stage a one-day event where people could gauge the level of noise generated by conducting sound studies.

Jasinski shot that request down, however, stating that the special use permit was a prerequisite to any formal activity on the property.

“If you want anything to go on your property, you need to follow through with the letter the engineers sent to you,” she said. “You need to start sending us the information, and they outlined that very clearly.”

At that point, Cory Coles, who lives on Pratt Road, brought up that Lewis is “soliciting his customers and others to sign a pre-written letter and sending them to the town, himself” (which later was verified by Jasinski).

“Having people from outside the town and Genesee County sending letters that claim our concerns are not valid is absolutely ridiculous,” Coles said. “… to be told that my concerns are not valid even from somebody 10 miles away is pretty unbelievable to me.”

Coles is opposed due to the noise factor, and said that project supporters are contending that the discharge of firearms in the distance is no different than a blown out tire on the Thruway.

“I’ve been living here for a few years and I can confirm that I do not hear 100 tires blowing out on the Thruway every 15 minutes,” he offered.

Resorting to Name-calling?

Then he reported that comments on The Firing Pin Facebook page and discord server have disparaged nearby residents, with terms such as “idiots, morons and even Nazis.”

“One person going as far to suggest that we all should go out into the middle of I-90, presumably to get run over,” he said, adding that he questions the legitimacy of some of the emails and comments.

Coles said photos of the residence of a sheriff’s deputy who lives in that area were uploaded to the discord server, as well.

“Bottom line is it’s kind of concerning. Mr. Lewis claimed over and over how he wants to be a good neighbor, but I just can’t seem to see where he cares if he does or not,” he said.

After dealing with agenda items (special use permits for a solar system on R. Stephen Hawley Drive and a drive-thru for the new Chipotle restaurant on Veterans Memorial Drive), planners revisited the shooting range proposal.

Paul McCullough said he talked to a neighbor who is “quite concerned with the direction of fire and having Area 51 on one side and the shooting range on the other” and about the hours of operation.

Jasinski reported that Mosier is scheduled to address the board at its next meeting for a review of his special use permit.

Chair Says She Will Monitor the Situation

Another question pertained to Lewis’ right to shoot on the property as the owner, with Jasinski saying that is permitted but he can’t hold events. She then said she would monitor Lewis’ website and Facebook page, and if she heard something was going on there, she would check it out.

In closing, Jonathan Long said the way things are proceeding – or not – is leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

“It’s a bad first introduction for the neighbors – the property owners that have been in the town for many years,” he said. “The stuff online in my opinion is just not right. But, like you said, he hasn’t addressed any of the issues in the engineer’s letter; he hasn’t really given us a site plan of what he really wants to do, so until that happens, we’ll have to wait on it, I guess.”

The Batavian obtained a copy of the letter from Town Engineer Steve Mountain.

In it, Lewis is required to submit a detailed project description; and existing conditions, potential impacts and mitigation pertaining to the environment, traffic, community character, community facilities, fiscal impacts, land use and zoning, sanitary sewage and water supply, and water resources.

The plan also requires a coordinated review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act because it exceeds 10 acres.

Previously: Residents speak out against proposed outdoor shooting range on Harloff Road in Town of Batavia

Residents speak out against proposed outdoor shooting range on Harloff Road in Town of Batavia

By Mike Pettinella

If the sentiments from people who live in the neighborhood are any indication, Brandon Lewis may be facing an uphill fight to acquire the special use permit he needs to develop an outdoor shooting range on Harloff Road in the Town of Batavia.

Several residents of nearby Kelsey Road and Pratt Road voiced their opinions Tuesday night during a 40-minute public hearing conducted by the Batavia Town Planning Board via Zoom videoconferencing.

Their objections centered upon, primarily, the noise generated by the shooting as well as safety measures, the impact on property values and whether it is a good fit for the area.

Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin indoor shooting club in Bergen, is looking to place an outdoor shooting venue, along with a small movie theater, RV park and other entertainment options, on a 22-acre parcel at 3269 Harloff Road. The property is not far from Area 51 Motocross and the New York State Thruway.

Linda and Tomporowski, of Kelsey Road, said that they don’t object to the concept, but want Lewis to find another location.

'It's Just the Wrong Location'

“It just seems that anytime a new business comes up that is noise-generated, it seems to go up on Harloff Road,” Linda said. “We have Area 51 and we have to deal with that seven days a week, pretty much year round. We were originally told that it was going to be limited, but it has not been that way.

“So, we’re very concerned that if another special use permit goes through, it’s going to become unlimited use again – there’s no enforcement – and that just really does not allow me to enjoy my property.”

She said she considers it a “great proposal” and she isn’t anti-gun or antibusiness.

“I think it’s the right business, but just the wrong location. It’s definitely going to cause undue noise … in a residential-agricultural area.”

Linda then asked the planning board to deny the special use permit “based on the fact that the primary use of this property is a shooting range.”

She also cited sections of the planning board code, mentioning that it calls for “a harmonious relationship between the proposed use and the existing, adjacent uses, and there’s really nothing harmonious for me with a shooting range in my backyard. We’ve heard them shooting before; it’s very clear.”

'There Will be Repetitive Shooting' 

Her husband brought up that Lewis had mentioned conducting shooting drills.

“It’s not just junior shooting daddy’s rifle eight times at a target,” he said. “When he talks about drills, some of the stuff is going to be tactical, which means multiple magazines. Law enforcement officers are exempt from the SAFE Act and they can use 30-round magazines and they will be popping shots – doing all of their drills.”

Jason urged the board to “pull back a little bit” and learn specifically what Lewis is looking to do and address it appropriately at that time.

Rich Schildwaster, also of Kelsey Road, said he is an avid outdoorsman with military experience who doesn’t have an issue with a gun range, but is concerned with “the manner of what they are looking to do out there.”

“He has painted a beautiful picture, he really has,” Schildwaster said. “We’re going to have a movie theater, we’re going to have a fitness center, we’re going to have an RV lot … and various activities. When it comes to a special use permit, I don’t think various activities cut the mustard as far as what he is going to be doing out there.”

Schildwaster said he worries about the safety of residents of a mobile home park beyond the Thruway and reeled off other potential issues such as shooting at night, noise levels, training, size of the RV lot and hours of operation.

'It Will be Intrusive on Property Values'

“I’m not in favor … he’s not quieter than the Thruway and, absolutely, 1.2 miles as the crow flies from that range, I can hear him shooting and his cohort shooting recently over the top of the motorcycles running at the same time at Area 51,” he said. “It will be intrusive on my property and it will be intrusive on the values of all of our properties in the neighborhood.”

Kevin and Paul Heist, both of Pratt Road, followed, with Kevin stating that the daytime shooting hours would affect him as he works from home.

“Also, it seems like the plan is all over the place,” he said, adding that he wanted specifics about the safety protocol since there would be a movie theater on the site. He also requested proper environmental studies be conducted before the project moves forward.

Paul Heist said he lives straight across the Thruway from Area 51 and is troubled about the noise volume.

“I haven’t seen anything that he’s produced as far as hiding the noise. Is there any verification that it works?” he asked.

He also mentioned that he lives next door to the Silver Shoe Farms, which has 10 horses, who are sensitive to their hearing and could be spooked by the gunfire. He then called out the town for not enforcing the excessive noise generated by “cycles with no mufflers” at Area 51.

'Guns are Louder Than Jets'

Cory Coles, of Pratt Road, also requested that the board deny the special use permit.

He said he was aware of some shooting going on there a couple weeks ago, and said that unsuppressed guns are louder than motocross bikes and train horns.

“They say the Thruway is there and Area 51 is there, so it’s already noisy,” he offered. “If that’s the case, why don’t we build an airport there, which is funny, as by the way, passenger jet engines are not as loud as guns are.”

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said he has received 21 phone calls about the project, covering these similar issues. One of the letters was from Nicole Cable, owner of the horse stable, who has “massive concerns” as some of the horses she tends to are not hers.

'A Great Addition to Batavia'

At that point, Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski read excerpts of three letters in support of Lewis.

The letters stated that the shooting range would:

  • Be a great addition to Batavia, bringing more money to the town, and promoted Lewis as making safety his top priority;
  • Be a nice change and create positive tax revenue, and with the proper rules and regulations, be safe for the neighbors;
  • Be, per the Bergen Planning Board, “a beneficial addition to the Batavia community since The Firing Pin and Mr. Lewis have become an integral part of our community, participating in fundraising events, hosting gun safety, hunting classes and bringing much needed notoriety to our little town.”

Matthew Hume, the architect working with Lewis, concurred.

“I totally understand everybody’s concerns. I also live on Pratt Road, so it’s kind of in my backdoor as well. I’ve worked quite a bit with both Brandon and his father, and I can tell you that their family – they’re incredible people, they’re more than willing to work with the community,” he said. "They’re not looking to make any enemies here, they’re really just looking to provide different alternatives for the community.”

Hume said Lewis welcomes feedback if there are any issues and would be “more than happy to work out the details so that everybody can be happy.”

'Special Use Permit Must be Limited'

Planning Board Member Don Partridge said he wanted to know when the special use permit granted to Area 51 would be reviewed – Jasinski said that is scheduled for May – and then mentioned that he is leaning in favor of Lewis’ permit as long as it is “limited.”

“Hopefully, he will operate it properly and we won’t have any complaints,” Partridge said.

Jason Tomporowski then got back on the call, indicating that if Area 51 wasn’t already there, the shooting range would stand a better chance of being accepted.

“It’s the noise. I’ve had it,” Tomporowski said. “We moved out to the country so I could live in peace, and that’s my big issue. If there’s some way that I can see a plan on how he’s planning on muffling the noise, with barrier walls, earth and tire mounds, something.”

Schildwaster rejoined the conversation, directing a question to Lewis.

“I just wonder if he would be willing to reveal how many people have shot themselves at his facility in Bergen? It’s probably more than one, whether it was fatal or not, how many people have had accidental shootings in his Bergen facility?” Schildwaster asked.

Jasinski said that question wasn’t appropriate for the public hearing, but Schildwaster was undeterred.

“Why wouldn’t that be pertinent to this hearing when he’s bringing a range here and we’re talking about safety? If he’s already operating a range, why wouldn’t that be a question that the town … would have?” Schildwaster replied.

'The Question was Inappropriate'

Jasinski then asked Lewis if he wished to respond.

“I prefer not to only because I am somewhat taken back,” Lewis said. “I understand the nature of the question, but I don’t think that it was asked in a sincere way. I’ll be completely honest and I’m getting a little bit choked up. We did have a suicide at the range (The Firing Pin), which was completely unavoidable.

“I can’t control someone’s actions when they decide to make that decision, so I believe that gentleman knew that. That is the only incident that we’ve ever had in that regard. And I agree with you, chairperson, that that wasn’t appropriate.”

Lewis had opened the public hearing with a brief statement – emphasizing he wishes “to bring a professional, safe training and shooting center to the Town of Batavia, the likes of which really have not been seen in this region.”

“I think it would be quite a draw to the Town of Batavia from shooters and firearms’ enthusiasts, law enforcement, countless groups that would be interested in this type of training from the firearms side alone.”

Jasinski indicated the process of authorizing the special use permit will take some time.

“We’re not doing anything tonight. After this, we will be talking about it and putting it on the agenda. People are welcome to attend our meetings – we have a lot of things to look into,” she said.

Previously: Planners seek specifics about schedule, noise abatement as they contemplate Harloff Road shooting range plan

Concessions in hand, Batavia Town planners approve Ellicott Street Road solar projects

By Mike Pettinella

An Ellicott Street Road farmer’s plan to place a pair of side-by-side community solar arrays on his property received the green light from the Batavia Town Planning Board on Tuesday night, but not before the project developer agreed to concessions pertaining to utility poles and aesthetics.

Toward the end of a 58-minute discussion among planners, Town of Batavia officials and representatives of Cypress Creek Renewables LLC via Zoom videoconferencing, five of the six planning board members on the call voted that the solar farms would cause no or little adverse environmental impact, and also approved the site plans and the required special use permits.

The proposal was presented in June 2019 by Don Partridge, who also is a member of the planning board. He was not allowed to vote on any measures pertaining to the project.

Partridge has contracted with Cypress Creek Renewables to construct two adjacent solar farms at 5117 Ellicott Street Road, southeast of the city limits:

  • A 5-megawatt array on 18.2 acres of a 65-acre parcel of otherwise agricultural land, known as Trousdale Solar I;
  • A 4-megawatt system on 19.6 acres of a 71-acre parcel of otherwise agricultural land, known as Trousdale Solar II.

The planning board tabled the project last month after determining it needed more photos and visual projections of current and future screening of the solar panel arrays.

Additional Screenings, Pole Relocation

Last night, Cypress Creek Renewables representatives Jerry Leone, Nick Hawvermale and attorney Mark Sweeney did present maps of the property, updated to show additional screening (berms and trees) – and what it would look like in five and 10 years. They also reported the relocation of three utility poles owned by CCR about 230 feet into the site, within the fence line.

Currently, the site plan calls for four utility poles owned by National Grid and the three owned by CCR.

While acknowledging CCR’s good faith effort to address the board’s concerns, planning board Member Paul McCullough said he believed that the number of poles could be reduced, calling them “ugly in these projects.”

His colleague, Jonathan Long, agreed, adding that the poles still could be seen from the solar farm’s driveway.

Planners also had hoped that the developers would obtain a letter from National Grid to see if the company could eliminate some of its utility poles, but Leone said the power company indicated it was unable to provide that.

Leone offered to plant more soil berms as “further mitigation -- not 24-feet high, but ground berming to create “more of a fit naturally to the land.”

What About Ground-mounted Enclosures?

At that point, McCullough asked if CCR could replace the utility poles with ground-mounted (transformer boxes). Leone responded by saying that modification would be expensive.

“We would be looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of about a $200,000 delta between what we’re proposing and going to a ground, perhaps a minimum, and that would be per connection,” Leone said.  "It gets to the point where we’re talking about a healthy price tag when we start talking about mounting below grade.”

Planner Steve Tanner noted CCR’s attempt at mitigation, but questioned whether it was enough to enable the board to issue a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review.

The developers again brought up the additional screening on the east side and vegetative buffer in front of neighboring properties, before Leone advanced – "as a last resort” -- the idea of ground-mounted enclosures to replace a pole or two.

McCullough said he would be on board with that.

Hawvermale then reiterated the increased cost to CCR and said he hoped that National Grid could do the same, to some degree, with its poles.

“It does add construction timeline implications that make it a little more difficult for us. That’s something we can look into with National Grid,” he said.

Tanner then suggested that any site plan approval and special use permits issued should include stipulations that the three CCR poles and at least one National Grid pole be replaced with ground-mounted apparatus.

SEQR, Site Plans, Permits Approved

With that in place, planners voted that the project would have no or little environmental impact – thus rendering a “negative declaration” on the combined SEQR.

They then voted separately on the site plans and special use permits for the two arrays, heeding Town Engineer Steve Mountain’s advice to make it contingent upon: town engineering approval; obtaining cost estimates in the case of decommissioning; addressing NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets comments; securing additional screening; and reduction of the utility poles.

Unanimous votes on both solar farms now gives CCR the right to proceed with the project, pending the signing of resolutions that spell out the specifics of what was agreed upon.

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski, thanked all parties upon approval of the referral, adding that “it was mitigated to the best of our ability … and we can’t make everyone happy but we did our best.”

Jasinski opened the meeting by reading a letter dated March 9 from Christopher and Christine Long of 9234 Batavia Stafford Townline Road, expressing “our many concerns of a solar panel project so close in proximity to our home.” The Longs asked Jasinski if she would share the letter with the planning board before voting took place.

Summarizing, the Longs wrote that it was “wholly inappropriate for Partridge to “consistently sell his land to parties directly involved in Town of Batavia building projects while he is serving another seven-year term with the Planning Board … “and is a blatant and obvious conflict of interest.”

Concerns Over Resale Value, Safety

The couple also wrote that the solar farm would decrease the value and resale of its three parcels, totaling 5.4 acres with 1,080 feet of frontage on Batavia Stafford Townline Road, and are concerned for the safety of its family “as the project emerges in what is, essentially, our backyard.”

The Longs also said the project “is in direct conflict” with the Town of Batavia’s mission statement, which is to “protect and promote public health, safety, morals and general welfare for all residents in the Town of Batavia.”

Other reasons for their opposition indicated in the letter include safety of the industrial solar panels, pollution, disruption of the surrounding farmland and displacement of wildlife.

In closing, while reiterating its disagreement with the proposal, the Longs said they “adamantly insist that in addition to the installation of the code-required 8-foot perimeter fence, that a berm and/or several rows of trees be included in the plan and be established between the east side of the project and our home (and the) current trees and vegetation that compose the existing hedgerow should also remain intact.”

Partridge made a brief statement after Jasinski finished reading the letter:

“Relative to the Batavia Stafford Townline (Road), there are at least two properties between any properties on the town line and my property, and there’s no way that anywhere on the Batavia Stafford Townline (Road) you’ll be able to see this project. That’s all I want to say.”

Outdoor Shooting Range on Hold Until April 6

On another front, planners heard briefly from Brandon Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, about his plan to develop an outdoor recreational facility that includes shooting ranges and a drive-in movie theater on a 22-acre parcel at 3269 Harloff Road.

Previously, Lewis presented his proposal to the Genesee County Planning Board, which recommended approval of a special use permit and site plan with modifications pertaining to stormwater pollution mitigation, acquiring the proper permits, and ensuring there is no glare from the movie screen onto the New York State Thruway.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said his office has received numerous phone calls from residents – some positive and some negative – and asked planners to direct all questions in email form to Lang or Mountain.

Jasinski said a site plan review will be placed on the April 6 agenda and voting on the special use permit will take place after a public hearing on April 20.

Ellicott Street Road solar projects on hold pending receipt of additional visual documentation

By Mike Pettinella

The Batavia Town Board Tuesday night tabled action necessary to advance a community solar project on Ellicott Street Road – the pros and cons of which have been dissected and discussed by engineers, developers, planners and neighbors for the past year and a half.

Introduced in June 2019, the proposal from Cypress Creek Renewables LLC calls for placement of two solar farms on property owned by Don Partridge at 5117 Ellicott Street Road.

One, Trousdale Solar I, is a 5-megawatt array on 18.2 acres of a 65-acre parcel, and the other, Trousdale Solar II, is an adjacent 4-megawatt system on 19.6 acres of a 71-acre parcel of farmland off Route 63, southeast of the city.

Town planners at their meeting via Zoom videoconferencing last night were looking to proclaim a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review, which deals with the projects’ combined effect on the land, and also to approve separate site plans and special use permits for the two tracts.

During the SEQR process, however, Steve Tanner, a planning board member, said it would be wise to get an updated visual impact study as he had concerns over the proposed screening of the layout from neighboring properties.

Cypress Creek representatives Jerry Leone and civil engineer Nick Hawvermale indicated that they had addressed the town’s request to mitigate any visual impacts by moving a portion of screening (trees, etc.) further south, closer to a neighbor’s property.

After hearing Tanner’s request for photos to be taken from the neighbors’ view, Leone asked Town Engineer Steve Mountain for assistance in obtaining access. Mountain said that would be possible, noting that landowners have been accommodating to the town on other projects.

With an eye on making this happen before the board’s next meeting on Feb. 16, Leone said his company is “prepared to move quickly.”

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski brought up tabling everything until the supplemental photo documentation was obtained, prompting Partridge, a planning board member, to advise that he had taken more pictures that day from the border of neighboring fields.

“I don’t know what difference it will matter getting up next to their house another 30 feet to visualize something that will be behind the trees that are on Folger’s (property),” he said. “And we have a presentation where they have the driveway and the trees on that. Now if you go to the other side of Folger’s with that tree line … it’s going to be the same kind of visualization on the knoll behind the Smiths' and the ARC properties.”

A motion to table was presented, however, with Town Building Inspector Dan Lang suggesting to “err on the side of caution” before Tanner reiterated his call for “a complete set of documents that show everything we are asking for” – views with screening and without screening.

Planner Jonathan Long supported that, referring to a question on the SEQR application that points to the solar farm being inconsistent with the character of the natural landscape and surmising that proper screening would mitigate potential issues.

Hawvermale took several minutes to go over the renderings of the two solar farms, making planners aware of the placement and types of screenings and buffers.

When questioned about the number of utility poles on the layout, Leone said that is within National Grid’s “purview” and leaves Cypress Creek little flexibility. Hawvermale did provide specifics, indicating that there will be five utility company poles and three others to be put up by Cypress Creek.

Jasinski said the town will contact National Grid to get information about the number of poles in writing, adding that the power company has permitted a fewer number on other projects.

Planners also asked about glare, with Lang stating that a study came back showing no glare at all on the site. Still, he is requesting further research because that is the first time a report came back with that result.

When voting on the proposal does occur, Partridge will be required to abstain.

In recent weeks, neighbors and others living on Ellicott Street Road have spoken out about Partridge’s plan, citing impacts on the land and property values, and questioning whether two 20-acre side-by-side arrays violate the maximum limit imposed by the Town of Batavia.

Previously: Ellicott Street Road resident challenges Town of Batavia's 20-acre solar limit as nearby project moves forward

Town planners to review solar farm proposal on property owned by Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp.

By Mike Pettinella


The Batavia Town Planning Board was introduced to another community solar project on Tuesday night – a plan to install a 1.65-megawatt system on vacant land owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. on R. Stephen Hawley Drive (College Road) – and, right away, was peppered with comments about the need to shield the array from a nearby home.

Planners held a public hearing in connection with a special use permit request by Batavia Solar LLC to put the ground-mounted solar farm at 99 Med Tech Drive, near the Genesee County Economic Development Center office.

James Taravella, senior civil engineer with LaBella Associates, Orchard Park, told the board that 5.63 acres of the 7.95-acre parcel, located in a Planned Unit Development district, will be fenced in for this solar array. He said the project calls for the installation of approximately 4,500 modules using a fixed access racking system.

Other features of the project include an access road with a 13- by 20-foot equipment pad and a 6 foot high chain-link fence around the entire layout. Taravella said all setbacks are in line with requirements of the PUD District – 50-foot front setback, 30-foot side setback and 40-foot rear setback.

As soon as he finished, Tim Morrow, a resident of Ellicott Street Road, asked if the owners of a home near the proposed solar array have been contacted about the project, stating that he is “looking out for the town and the community because I have the situation out by my house.”

Morrow has spoken out at previous public hearings and meetings against the Trousdale Solar I and Trousdale Solar II projects proposed for land owned by Donald Partridge at 5117 Ellicott Street Road.

Taravella: 'We're Communicating with the Neighbors'

Taravella said that representatives of Batavia Solar LLC are communicating with Robert and Michelle Wood of 8244 Batavia-Stafford Townline Road, whose home is in close proximity to the proposed solar array.

Morrow then asked if the developers planned to shield the solar farm with a berm or trees.

“At this early stage we have not put any screening but it is typical for a screening plan to be implemented as the project progresses,” Taravella said, adding that he plans to work with the Woods to “develop something that they will be happy with.”

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang informed those on the Zoom call that the Town of Batavia has specifications for its solar projects, including a decommissioning bond and a call for trees, berms and surface vegetation to ensure a view “that is as natural as possible in accordance with our code.”

At that point, Michelle Wood spoke up, acknowledging that she and her husband are the landowners.

“We really would like a berm put along the back of it – it protects us and our house,” she said. “We’re OK and in favor of a solar farm there. We would prefer a solar farm versus a cement industrial building there, so we don’t have a real problem with it. We would just like for them to come to us with what their ideas are and what they’re planning to do.”

Planners Want Extensive Screening

Later on, during the regular meeting, planners asked Taravella to develop a screening plan that shields the Wood house “not only from looking out their back window but also from their side window, over to the driveway” and asked him to create visual simulations showing as such.

Furthermore, board members requested screening around the entire project, including the view from College Road. Taravella said that is an early consideration as developers have to make sure that some of the fixed-angle panels are not shaded by trees or berms.

Going forward, Town Engineer Steve Mountain advised that developers should submit a long-form State Environmental Quality Review to provide as much information to the planning board, which then voted in favor of seeking lead agency status for the project.

Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski said the board will invite Taravella back after getting the SEQR form, which takes about 30 days, and talk about the special use permit.

In other action, the planning board:

  • Following a public hearing, approved a special use permit for Janice Smith, 9149 Creek Road in the Town of Batavia, to convert an existing barn in an agricultural-residential district as a venue for weddings and other events.

“I have a large barn; I have property,” Smith said. “We went through this last year with my son where he got married, and he didn’t have a place to have it, so I would like to offer that (option) to other people. We don’t really have anything like that around here so …”

Discussion centered around the number of parking spots available on the property and whether the surface would be paved or left as grass.

Smith said there would be 157 parking spots on a grass surface, adding that the ground was “completely flat” and that she didn’t anticipate any problems being that the barn would be used during the warm weather months.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said that he has made several visits to the site and found “no difficulties” as the ground was solid, and there also were areas of stone and gravel.

Smith also responded to a question about possible noise issues related to music being played at the venue but said there are no neighbors for miles to the east or west and the closest neighbor otherwise were her parents.

Previously, the referral was recommended for approval by the Genesee County Planning Board with modifications that the applicant provide a revised site plan with the location and number of parking spots serving the party venue; and applies for 9-1-1 Address Verification to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office to ensure that the address of the proposed event venue meets Enhanced 9-1-1 standards*.

*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.
  • Approved a site plan and SEQR and declared itself as lead agency for the construction of a LandPro (John Deere sales and service company) sales, storage and maintenance facility at 4554 W. Saile Drive, near the Volvo Rents equipment building.

The venture initially came before the board in December and was also reviewed by county planners.

“I think you might be pretty familiar with the project by now. Obviously, we’re looking to go ahead and build on approximately 14 and a half acres on West Saile Drive,” said Project Designer Andrew Schmieder.

Schmieder said the project consists of a 28,000-square-foot maintenance building with about 15 bays for work on agricultural equipment and another five or six bays for work on turf equipment. He said that the main sales and parts storage facility is around 22,000 square feet and it will include office space to accommodate the transfer of administrative employees to the site.

Additionally, there will be about 7,000 square feet allocated to parts storage and LandPro officials are proposing to erect a 200- by 75-foot pole barn for cold storage, Schmieder said.

“This site lends itself very well to what’s being proposed – we’ve got a lot of room out there,” he said. “There’s an area out front to display some of their turf and ag equipment.”

Responding to concerns over increased traffic, Schmieder said he didn’t expect a significant change. He said during peak hours, they expect 10 to 15 vehicle customers per hour, and three to four cargo deliveries per day to the facility that will house about 65 employees.

Schmieder reported that there will be a minimum of 70 parking spots for employees and another 40 for retail customers, including six handicapped parking spaces.

Final approval is contingent upon final town engineering review and approval. Work is anticipated to be completed in the spring or summer of 2022.

Rendering at top (taken from Zoom meeting) shows the proposed solar project on Med Tech Drive off R. Stephen Hawley Drive (College Road), The Wood residence is at the right.

Authentically Local