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Borrego Solar Systems

September 17, 2019 - 10:46pm

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Several residents of Galloway and Lewiston roads in the Town of Batavia spoke out tonight against a plan to build a 19.8-acre, 4-megawatt ground-mounted solar system at 3565 Galloway Road, citing potential adverse effects on the environment, property values and the aesthetic benefits of rural living.

Bright Oak Solar LLC is proposing to place the solar panels on property in an Agricultural-Residential district owned by Wayne Dunham.

His neighbors who commented at a public hearing, attended by about 30 people prior to the Batavia Town Planning Board’s meeting at the Town Hall, didn’t see it as such a bright idea.

“It will be in my backyard and I’ll have to look at it,” said Brandon Miller, of Lewiston Road, who added that he would be hampered in a bid to sell his home. “It is right in the middle of almost two roads like that (with many houses). It’s ridiculous.”

Miller’s words were the first in a half-hour’s worth of remarks pointed at Tom Healy, project manager for Prowind Inc., the developer, and Daniel Yanosh, project manager with Hunt engineering out of Rochester.

Yanosh explained that the solar system would be placed on the southern part of Dunham’s property, facing Galloway Road (see diagram), with the land to the north remaining as agricultural acreage.

He said that a gravel access road would be installed, that the solar farm would be surrounded by a 7-foot chain link fence and that part of it would be screened by plantings and trees. He added that the plan calls for five utility poles (but planners later requested that number be reduced to three or four).

“The grading goes up and falls off, so you’re not going to see much of it from across the road,” Yanosh said. “It’s 300 feet off the road and with the natural topography, there will be minimal visual impacts.”

Mike Hall, who lives on Galloway Road, asked if developers considered moving it back further from Galloway, if an environmental impact statement had been done and who is going to benefit from this.

“Are we going to see any benefit from this? Where is the electricity going and who benefits from it?” he said.

Healey responded that developers strive to minimize the distance from the connection point (in this instance, on Galloway Road) and will be upgrading an existing gas track that runs from the road through the middle of the solar panel array.

“As far as who benefits, energy is exported to National Grid, and the state has a community solar (program), which offers a discount on your energy bill (to those who opt in to the program),” he said.

Linda Fox, of Lewiston Road, said she sees the solar farm as a disruption to her enjoyment of wildlife in the area.

“I’m totally against that,” she said. “I look outside and see deer, all kinds of animals … chipmunks, birds, everything you can think of. If he decides to do this, we might as well sell the house and go.”

Healey countered by saying that the project is at its maximum capacity, which is correct due to Town code restrictions.

But Hall said he wasn’t convinced of its value.

“Maybe in the future we could see some benefit from it, but I am concerned about the environmental impact. I’ve seen these things all over the United States, and they’re really ugly.”

Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski then noted that the board is charged with conducting a State Environmental Quality Review -- gathering information from the town engineer, project engineer, zoning officials and staff to make an informed decision.

Miller brought up the solar farm’s effect on property values. When asked if it was going to drop, Jasinski advised him to talk to his assessor, but also noted that there isn’t enough data in this area to make an accurate determination.

Hall, stating out loud that this is “probably a done deal,” said any impact upon assessments should be considered before approval of projects such as these.

Galloway Road resident Sonja Armbrewster requested that the developers add screening on the southeast portion of the system, which is near her property.

“It’s just off my backyard and all I will see is a bunch of solar panels,” she said. “Now, we’re able to look at deer and nature.”

Moments later, she too asked about the impact on property values, stating “these people are making a lot of money. Who is going to reimburse us?”

Tim Call, of Galloway Road, asked Yanosh about the construction involved.

“We drive piles into the ground. We’re not running concrete trucks like crazy and it’s a stone base,” Yanosh said. “There will be some deliveries but once it’s done, there will be only two or three trips per year. And when it’s decommissioned (put out of service in 25 years), it's back to farm land.”

Responding to a question from Hall about possible flooding, Yanosh said grass, pollinators and clover will be planted.

“This will provide a lot more vegetative uptake and slow that rush of water quite a bit,” he said. “That’s a benefit for the stormwater aspect.”

After all comments were heard, the board declared lead agency status for the SEQR, approving a negative declaration (no serious environmental impacts) but stopped short of voting on the special use permit and site plan.

Instead, acting on board Member Steve Tanner’s request, they asked Yanosh and Healy to come back to the Oct. 1st meeting armed with another visual assessment of the land, taking into account the calls for additional screening, reduction of the number of utility poles, decommissioning bond details and other information requested by the town engineer.

Upon exiting, Yanosh said they will add more trees to the southeast side.

In other action, the board asked representatives of Borrego Solar Systems LLC to provide more information as to how their plan to construct two 20-acre, 7.2-megawatt ground solar systems at 8050 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98) does not run contrary to the parameters set forth by the Town in connection to 600 acres earmarked as a Planned Business Development District.

Borrego is hoping to place the solar farm on land owned by Eric Saile, located north of the NYS Thruway interchange.

The board was looking to declare lead agency status for the SEQR review, but put that on hold after Town Engineer Steve Mountain brought up several points – farmland protection, archeological study, zoning inconsistencies – that need to be cleared up.

According to requirements of the PBD District, the minimum development size is 100 acres. This was set up by the Town to ensure large-scale commercial development that would benefit the municipality, preserve the agricultural land and avoid piecemeal projects that could hinder future marketability of the parcel.

Marc Kenward, senior engineer with Erdman Anthony, and Emilie Flanagan, project developer for Borrego, contended that their project is in line with Town code in that solar farms are allowed in all zoning districts by a special use permit and also is of a “temporary nature” in that the solar farm would be decommissioned in 25 years.

“I can see that a lot of commercial developments could come from this,” Flanagan said. “As we read it, the plan meets every detail of the (Town’s) Comprehensive Plan.”

Mountain acknowledged that since this is the first project submitted for the PBDD, it is “very unique” and could be open to interpretation. He urged the developer to take the time to provide more information, detailing how the plan fits in.

Flanagan agreed that more dialogue is needed and proposed a meeting with Town officials before presenting the new information at the board’s next meeting on Oct. 1.

Previously, the Genesee County Planning Board recommended disapproval of a special use permit and area variance based on the PBD District guidelines.

The matter will have to be addressed, once again, by the Town Zoning Board of Appeals, which doesn’t meet again until Oct. 21.

Unlike what transpired with the solar project on Galloway Road, no one spoke at a public hearing on this project prior to the board meeting.

Photos: Mike Hall, white shirt in center, makes a point during a public hearing tonight about a proposed solar farm on Galloway Road. Looking on are developers Tom Healy, left, and Dan Yanosh and Town Building Inspector Dan Lang (in orange shirt). Diagram shows Galloway Road at bottom and Lewiston Road diagonally. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

August 20, 2019 - 9:12pm

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Genesee County is becoming a home away from home for representatives of Borrego Solar System LLC, of Lowell, Mass., and the Erdman Anthony engineering firm of Rochester, as more and more requests to build ground-mounted solar farms in this area pop up.

Emilie Flanagan, project developer, and Steve Long, civil engineer, of Borrego were joined by Marc Kenward, engineer from Erdman Anthony, tonight to once again pitch an 8.99-megawatt, 20.45-acre solar farm at 5230 Batavia-Elba Townline Road – farm land owned by Dan Underhill.

Flanagan and Kenward, for the second time in a month, outlined the proposal during a public hearing in front of the Town of Batavia Planning Board. While about 20 people attended the meeting, no one from the public commented on the plan.

After Flanagan repeated her point that the community solar project “feeds electricity back into the grid” and can provide discounts on electric bills to those signing up for the program, Kenward talked about areas addressed by Borrego to meet code and setback requirements.

Kenward said the proposed solar farm will have more frontage than required, is environmentally friendly, includes a 7-foot high chain link fence and, upon completion, will be shielded on one side by 250 6- to 7-foot high trees, split into two rows. Previously, they said the other side will be out of sight since it will be built down slope.

“During construction, there will be about 50 vehicle trips per day,” Kenward said. “Afterward, (there will be) no noise, no traffic and no nighttime lighting.”

The planning board voted unanimously in favor of three items -- seeking lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review (finding no significant impact on the surrounding area), a special use permit and the site plan.

Approval of the special use permit and site plan are contingent upon final review by town engineers, required plantings in front of the solar panels, filing of a decommissioning bond and addressing any glare issues, should they come up.

Underhill, who was present during the session, said that the solar farm enables him to “diversify a bit” by generating another source of income, but that he still has about 200 acres for farming.

The solar array will be placed on a 52-acre parcel, with 43,355 solar panels aligned in a fenced-in area of 19.94 acres with an additional half acre to be used for an access driveway. It also will include four utility poles.

In other action, the board approved, contingent upon final engineering review, a site plan for Provident Batavia LLC, doing business as SCP Distributors at 4430 W. Saile Drive, to build a 13,000-square-foot (160 by 82) addition, and a site plan for Mark Lewis to erect another freestanding sign at his State Farm Insurance agency at 8331 Lewiston Road.

Photo: Marc Kenward, engineer for Erdman Anthony, provides details of a solar farm project on Batavia-Elba Townline Road as Town of Batavia Planning Board members Lou Paganello, left, and Paul Marchese, and Town Building inspector Daniel Lang look on. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 8, 2019 - 8:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Genesee County Planning Board, Borrego Solar Systems.

Genesee County planners tonight stood by the Town of Batavia’s directive concerning its Planned Business Development District as it recommended disapproval of a special use permit and area variance for a pair of 20-acre, 7.2 megawatt ground solar systems on Oak Orchard Road (Route 98), just north of the NYS Thruway interchange.

In its unanimous decision, the planning board determined that the request by Oak Orchard Solar 1 LLC -- an entity set up by Borrego Solar Systems LLC -- does not fit into parameters set by the Batavia Town Board on what is considered to be prime agricultural land.

According to requirements of the PBD District, the minimum development size is 100 acres.

The Oak Orchard Solar project on land owned by Eric Saile totals 40 acres, but Marc Kenward, a senior engineer with the Erdman Anthony firm of Rochester, disagreed with that number.

“We’re disappointed (with the decision) since the two systems are to be built on an 85.96-acre site (broken into two parcels of 48 and 37 acres),” Kenward, principal engineer, said. “Plus, the Town Zoning Code clearly indicates that solar energy is an allowed use in all zoning districts.”

Kenward went on to say that the solar farm project meets many of the criteria of the PDB District and will increase the tax base and land assessment, preserve federal wetlands, and accommodate continued agricultural use in the area.

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari then explained that the Town’s Comprehensive Plan calls for this area to be held for “large-scale development … not to be broken up into smaller pieces.”

“The Town wants someone to come in with a complete package; almost like a mini-STAMP (referring to the WNY Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama),” Oltramari said. “Maybe even a place for a new (Buffalo) Bills stadium, which is pie in the sky, in my opinion.”

He said solar could be a part of a potential project there, but as an accessory use to offset expenses of a major mixed-use component.

The requirements of the PBD District as stated in the Town’s zoning regulations are as follows:

(1) Establish an area for new commercial, industrial, recreational and/or mixed use development on a large scale that will provide the Town and region with employment opportunities, additional tax base and other community benefits, while minimizing impacts on public services;

(2) Prevent piecemeal development that would compromise the availability and future marketability of a large area for significant new development;

(3) Accommodate continued agricultural use in an area that is highly suited for agriculture;

(4) Provide greater flexibility, more creative and imaginative design and utilization of innovative land development techniques while promoting more economical and efficient use of land, buildings, circulation systems and utilities;

(5) Provide for both individual building sites and common property which are planned and developed as a unit; to provide harmonious land uses which offer a high level of amenities;

(6) Permit a variety of industrial, commercial and/or recreational uses;

(7) Preserve natural and scenic qualities of the site during the development process.

Kenward said that if Oak Orchard Solar 1 LLC decides to move ahead with the project, it will have to “make our case” with the Town Zoning Board of Appeals later this month and, if successful, to the Town Planning Board in September.

In other action, the county planning board recommended:

-- Approval with modifications a site plan review for Provident Batavia LLC, doing business as SCP Distributors at 4430 W. Saile Drive, Batavia, to construct a 13,000-square-foot (180 by 60) addition.

SCP Distributors, a national swimming pool supplies company, is undergoing a $1.2 million project to complement its existing 25,000-square-foot warehouse that was built in 2006. According to submitted documents, Building Innovation Group of East Rochester has been selected as the general contractor.

Modifications center around preserving wetlands on the property and making sure there is no archaeological impact on the grounds.

Previously, the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board approved $156,312 in tax incentives, noting that the venture will produce a state/regional economic impact of more than $600,000 and will enable SCP Distributors to retain 15 full-time equivalent jobs.

-- Approval of a special use permit for a 19.8-acre, 4 megawatt ground-mounted solar system on property in an agricultural-residential district owned by Wayne Dunham at 3656 Galloway Road, Batavia. Prowind Inc. is the developer for Bright Oak Solar LLC.

-- Approval of a second group home for women at 234 Broadway Road, Darien, as requested by John Kula of Freedom Fellowship.

The home, located not far from the ministry’s current group home for women at 282 Broadway Road, was previously used as a plumbing business. It will sit on a commercial zone lot of 750 by 320 feet surrounded by a 5.4-acre parcel.

-- Approval of tandem 24-acre solar farms to be constructed by Borrego Solar Systems on property owned by Benjamin Miles at 241 Knapp Road, Pembroke.

The Knapp Road parcels, situated in an Agricultural-Residential District, will be designated as “east” and “west” and each will generate 5 megawatts of power.

July 16, 2019 - 9:15pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, GCASA, Batavia Town Planning Board, Borrego Solar Systems.

The Batavia Town Planning Board tonight set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 20 on an application by Borrego Solar Systems LLC, of Lowell, Mass., to install an 8.99 megawatt ground-mounted solar farm on Batavia Elba Townline Road, just west of Batavia Stafford Townline Road.

Emilie Flanagan, project developer for Borrego, and Marc Kenward, engineer for Erdman Anthony of Rochester, presented the plan for the 20.45-acre solar system to be built on land owned by Dan Underhill, a Batavia Town Board deputy supervisor.

Kenward said the project would consist of 43,355 solar panels placed in a fenced-in area of 19.94 acres with an additional half an acre to be used for an access driveway.

He said four utility poles will be needed – one more than usual since power will be supplied from across the road, which actually is in the Town of Stafford.

Flanagan emphasized that the panels will go on farm land that is in a valley and will be hidden by nearly 200 trees and landscaping to “have the least amount of impact as possible on neighboring homes.”

Kenward said engineers have made sure that the project meets or exceeds all Town of Batavia zoning codes and have received approval from the Genesee County Planning Board, which recommended that the 20-foot access driveway be eliminated or significantly reduced due to its impact upon the soil.

“We’re doing whatever the Town says we need to do,” Kenward noted. “It’s environmentally friendly; there needs to be little tree and stump removal and it will be enclosed by a 7-foot-high chain-link fence.”

He said glare studies showed that there will be no effect upon the (Genesee County) airport or on the ground.

The board also voted to seek lead agency status for a state environmental quality review.

Kenward said he hopes the permit process will be completed by September, setting the stage for construction over the winter.

In recent weeks, Borrego received approvals for two other solar farms, both on West Main Street Road.

Flanagan, responding to a question about whether the community benefits from projects such as these, said Borrego’s systems are part of the Community Solar program.

“Two weeks ago, the governor (Andrew Cuomo) came out and said that the state has to achieve 70 percent renewable energy by 2030,” she said. “What we build are mid-scale power plants that push electricity back to the local grid. Residents can subscribe to the grid (through their power company) to get discounts.”

She also said benefits come to the Town through building permits and to the county through property taxes.

Owners of the property receive payments from solar companies such as Borrego over a 25-year period, while solar leasing companies profit from selling electricity usually at a lower rate than charged by a utility company and from municipal tax credits.

In other action, the planning board:

-- Approved a site plan review for six to 10 temporary vendor areas on the property of Batavia Starter at 3282 W. Main Street Road, just west of Wortendyke Road.

Owner Phil Hinrich told planners that he hopes to attract vendors – sellers of fruit and vegetables, crafts, antiques, etc. – to set up shop in front of his business on the weekends in hope of increasing his bottom line.

“I have space to put four vendors on one side and six on the other, with lots of room behind the building for parking,” he said. “My goal is to generate some extra money to cover taxes.”

His plan has been approved by the Genesee County Planning Board, pending Hinrich’s acquisition of a driveway permit through the state Department of Transportation. Hinrich said he already has the permit and plans to put up temporary “enter” and “exit” signs to ensure proper traffic flow.

Hinrich said he would like to open the vendor area to the public in the summer months until around Labor Day, but may not be able to get the venture off the ground until next year. Planners asked him to report back to them in the spring for an update on the project.

-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 6 in connection with a special use permit by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to develop an indoor recreation facility for recovering addicts at the former Bohn’s Restaurant site at 5258 Clinton Street Road.

Town Building Inspector Daniel Lang reported that the agency’s planned use for the building does fit into the town code since it is in a commercial zone.

He brought up the possibility of a reverse PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to the Town as a result of the property coming off the tax rolls.

GCASA was unsuccessful in finding a place in the City of Batavia as it was hit with opposition from residents and council members.

“Maybe we, too, will have some opposition,” said Planning Board Chairperson Kathy Jasinski. “We’ll find out.”

Both the solar farm and GCASA public hearings will take place at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

-- Approved the placement of three signs at Fresenius Kidney Care at 4189 Veterans Memorial Drive (near Home Depot).

Edward “Jay” Hurzy of Sign and Lighting Services Co. of Ontario (N.Y.) said three signs will be erected – one on the pole, one on the building and one (with a brick base) by the road.

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