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Borrego Solar Systems

August 20, 2019 - 9:12pm


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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