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Cypress Creek Renewables LLC

June 23, 2022 - 4:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farm, Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, batavia, news.

img_1856solarproject.jpg

Three poles at each entrance of a pair of proposed solar projects off of Ellicott Street Road in the Town of Batavia will be less of an eyesore than four, members of the town planning board decided on Tuesday.

At one time, the developer, Cypress Creek Renewables, proposed four poles.

At Tuesday's meeting, project attorney Mark T. Sweeney, after a lengthy discussion of the topic, asked the planning board to commit to three poles if that is truly their desire.

"What we would ask then is that the board clarify the condition of approval to require us to have a maximum of three poles per project," Sweeney said. "Then we can agree, we can accept that and redo a redesign for that. What we really need tonight is to be able to walk away knowing what it is we have to do. So that would be my ask of you as a board is to clarify and modify that condition of approval so that we can do that."

The number of poles is not a straightforward design decision, Sweeney explained during Tuesday's discussion.  The equipment that is mounted on the poles can be placed on the ground but at much greater expense.  The design must be approved by National Grid. The ground-mounted equipment is big and bulky and must be fenced in. And ground-mounted equipment is a special order and supply issues are delaying delivery.

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

  • 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 four-pole plan Cypress Creek came up with for each project -- and that received a nod of approval from National Grid -- helped the company balance competing factors and the company sought to maintain that balance, Sweeney said. 

"There's a balance, you know, in what SEQR requires," Sweeney said. "The site plan evaluation requires a balance of the impacts versus the cost. One of the things we were looking at is just that element of it. I understand if there's a particular impact that is to be avoided, or identified that we weren't aware of, that's one thing, but just simply ground-mounting something at a significant cost would be -- for no significant benefit to the environment, from a visual standpoint -- would be in our position, something we've tried to avoid. "

When the equipment is ground-mounted, it must be placed on a two-foot-high base, Sweeney said. The equipment enclosure is six feet tall.  And because it is electrical equipment, it must be surrounded by a fence. 

"You do have some residual visual impact resulting from that installation," Sweeney said.

Board members asked why there couldn't be three poles at each location since other solar projects have been able to meet that requirement. 

Sweeney said he couldn't answer that question.

"I understand completely where you're coming from, and having consistency with other projects," Sweeney said. "I don't know why those projects have three. I don't know what their equipment lineup is. I assume that it's substantially similar, but it might be different. The project size might be different panel types, inverter types -- there's a whole level of engineering that goes into what may cause the number to be different. It could be that it could have been an earlier project that got a higher incentive from NYSERDA by being in a different block. So they had more money available to spend on that type of thing. There may not have been any landscaping associated with that project. They could take the money from the landscaping budget and put it into that. There are all kinds of different things of which we're not aware."

To help mitigate the visual disturbance of four poles, the poles were designed to be back from the roadway and screened from view by landscaping.

In the end, board members decided they would rather see only three poles on each site.

"I think even four poles with all the lines and all the stuff hanging out from them, it's just going to be an eyesore, not only for people who live there, but just driving by," said board member Jonathan Long. "It just doesn't fit in with the character of the neighborhood. In my opinion, saying that it's a cost to the project is, in my opinion --  this is going to be there 20-plus years, part of the scenery there; it's not going to go away. So the upfront costs are minor compared to long-term impacts."

Once Sweeney said he would like board action affirming they would accept three poles instead of four, a motion was made and passed.

Photo: Bridget Cuddihy, project developer for Cypress Creek, and Mark Sweeney, project attorney. Photo by Howard Owens.

Previously: 

July 8, 2021 - 7:39am

After swinging and missing on a pitch to obtain a grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal for the replacement of 5,300 feet of water main as part of the Park Road Reconstruction Project, the Batavia Town Board is still staying in the batter’s box.

It remains steadfast in its commitment to upgrade the municipality's sanitary sewer pump station at the Valu Plaza on West Main Street.

On Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers scheduled a public hearing on the Community Development Block Grant funding for 7:05 p.m. July 21 (the board’s next meeting) at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

“The application is for upgrades and repairs of the sanitary sewer pump station at the West Main Street plaza,” said Town Supervisor Gregory Post, adding that he’s not sure of the cost at this time. “We’re working on that (cost projections) as we speak. It’s a rushed application because we were denied our last application for Park Road and another round of funding is coming out.”

Missing out on the Park Road grant is disappointing, he said, but as the project moves forward, the town is looking at a bond resolution to pay for the approximately $900,000 cost of replacing the water main.

“We’re going to bid on Park Road in the next few weeks and we’re bonding that,” he said. “Once we receive the bids, we’ll develop a construction schedule based on that.”

A public hearing on the bond resolution for the Park Road water main and the entire capital improvement project also is scheduled July 21 at 7 p.m.

The resolution calls for the issuance of serial bonds not to exceed $975,190, offset by any federal, state, county and/or local funds received.

The $3 million Park Road rehabilitation will take place from Lewiston Road (Route 63) to Oak Street (Route 98).

Work will include new pavement, curbs and curbing from Lewiston Road to Richmond Avenue with sidewalks on both sides of Park Road, while pavement will be overlaid and sidewalks installed on one side of the road from Richmond Avenue to Route 98. The project also calls for new water lines and street lights on Park Road between Route 63 and Richmond Avenue.

Additional property enhancements of up to $395,000 at Batavia Downs Gaming will be paid for by the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

Solar Moratorium is Extended

In another development, the town board called another public hearing – this one for 7:10 p.m. July 21 to extend a moratorium on solar energy systems for up to another six months. The current moratorium is set to expire at the end of this month.

“We felt it important that we still had the moratorium in place while we work on getting our new (solar) law enacted,” Post said. “So, we’re setting a public hearing to extend the moratorium until such time that we have the legislative process complete.”

Post said the process of enacting new solar regulations has taken longer than expected “due to the extraordinary depths the (town’s solar) committee is diving into to make sure that this is well researched and well thought out. We want to make it more wholesome for the entire community and not leave anybody out.”

Post mentioned some recent developments in the solar arena that could affect the town’s handling of ground-mounted and, potentially, large-scale solar systems.

“The state’s solar agency (Office of Renewable Energy Siting) is being challenged in the courts, and NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) was found out to have hired a consulting firm that also has solar and wind energy customers as clients,” he reported. “That could be a conflict of interest – hiring somebody for a million dollars that is working for solar and wind energy companies.”

Furthermore, Post said he saw that Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, which owns the rights to a pair of side-by-side 5- and 4-megawatt solar systems on Ellicott Street Road, was sold to a Stockholm, Sweden-based investment company called EQT earlier this week.

“Solar is a hot topic and we just want to do our job and make sure we do it as well as everything else,” Post said, adding that he hopes to have the town’s new solar law in place by Labor Day.

March 17, 2021 - 12:05pm

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.

March 3, 2021 - 1:46pm

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

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