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.