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Genesee County Planning Board

Complaints raised at planning board meeting about STAMP, Edwards Vacuum, addressed by officials

By Howard B. Owens
Kirk Scirto, Akron
Dr. Kirk Scirto, a family physician in Akron, spoke in opposition on Thursday night to plans for Edwards Vacuum and WNY STAMP.
Photo by Howard Owens.

CLARIFICATION: Dr. Kirk Scirto informed us on Oct. 18 that he did not say that he represented the Seneca Nation. 

It's unusual for opponents of a development project to speak at Genesee County Planning Board meetings, but two people opposed the proposed Edwards Vaccum plant at WNY STAMP and of the STAMP project itself were at Thursday's meeting.

Both spoke after a representative of Edwards made his presentation to the board and after the board voted to recommend approval of the site plan review and final subdivision.

Both speakers raised a number of environmental concerns, all of which were later refuted in interviews after the meeting by representatives of Edwards and the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Edwards is proposing a manufacturing facility that will be 236,000 square feet and sit on a 50-acre parcel.  The company is a subsidiary of Atlas Copco Group and is planning a $319 plant that will build a semiconductor dry pump, a necessary component in maintaining cleanrooms for companies that make computer chips.

Dr. Kirk Scirto, a family physician in Akron, said he represented the Seneca Nation as well as a coalition of environment groups and as many as 500 residents who oppose both the Edwards Vacuum project as well as STAMP.

"I urge you strongly to recommend disapproval of the Edwards vacuum project," Scirto said. "Know that Tonawanda Seneca Nation lies at the border, immediately at the border of STAMP. They have sued to block its development along with a separate suit to do the same by the Orleans County Legislature. And now the town of Shelby has joined us in the suit. The community impacts of this project in Genesee County are also very troubling, and it's shocking that entities in Genesee County have not yet sued. Although that should change shortly."

The other opposition speaker was Evelyn Wackett, who admitted that she didn't know anything about WNY STAMP, despite heavy coverage of the high-tech industrial park in local and regional news outlets for more than 13 years, until this past Arbor Day. Wackett, a resident of Buffalo, said she is a licensed wildlife rehabbed in Erie County.

"As I looked into it and learned about it, I kind of started getting a little bit upset," Wackett said. "It seems to me a little fishy the way things are going on with this whole project. We come out of the COVID lockdowns, and all of a sudden, Plug Power is there. And now Edwards is coming in."

Vehicle Traffic
Scirto's first objection was to traffic in and out of the Edwards site, both for the additional traffic on local roads and emissions.

"The Edwards Vacuum project would be an immense generation of traffic, according to the February 2023 SEQR that was written by the Genesee EDC," Scirto said. "We've heard some different estimations today, so I'm a bit confused about that. According to GCEDC, vehicles would be expected to enter the leave STAMP every one to two seconds all day every day. This would dramatically slow down local routes, including routes 77 and 63, which may be forced to become 30-mile-per-hour roads."

It's not clear where he got the speed-limit change data.

"Air pollution would be a second major impact, and it will be produced by diesel trucks and other vehicles, and in the chemical emissions of Edwards vacuum itself," Scirto said.

Mark Masse, senior VP for operations for GCEDC, suggested Scirto is misreading the SEQR (an environmental review document) that included the WNY STAMP infrastructure projects and both Edwards Vacuum and a parallel warehousing development that hasn't been discussed much publicly.  In the SEQR report, nearly all of the contemplated traffic, Masse indicated, could be attributed to the warehouse project.

The estimated one or two truck trips per day for STAMP, as discussed by David Ciurzynski, a local consultant representing Edwards Vacuum in the meeting, is accurate, Masse said.

"It (the SEQR) was about a 23-page resolution," Masse said. "I'm sure if somebody was unaware of what they were looking at, it would be easy for them to get confused."

Toxins and Chemicals
"If they're able to dodge the extensive lawsuits already initiated and those which will be coming shortly, then they will be allowed to emit various toxins into the air," Scirto said. "Some of these toxins can cause cancer and irritate the eyes in the respiratory tract of people. This, combined with air pollution, would cause or worsen asthma, allergies, emphysema, respiratory infections, and heart disease, especially for those living closest to the factory and its intense traffic."

He said documents on the company website reveal that Edwards Vacuum uses chemicals and fibers that are dangerous to human health.

Ciurzynski said that Scirto is using outdated documents and documents not relevant to this project to make his claims.  He said Edwards makes a wide range of products that are referenced in publically available documents, but the company is making a very specific pump in the facility. There is no foundry, and nothing dangerous will be emitted from the factory, so much of what Scirto referenced is irrelevant.

"We're not releasing any toxins," Ciurzynski said. "Our process -- we're not releasing anything. Air permits will be issued by the DEC. They're required because every building has exhaust, so we have to get permits from the DEC. They are going to be approved by the DEC to all be basically zero emissions. We're not releasing anything into the sewers other than toilets and sinks and things like that. So it's human waste, you know, from people working in our plant. Our process water, any wastewater that we have (from manufacturing), is getting toted off-site. Everything that we're doing is intentional to minimize the effect on our community and our systems. We're not, we don't want to tax any part of the community. We don't want to tax the community. So that's why we made these extra efforts to make sure that those processes are handled properly."

Fire safety
"The protection of community character would be challenged by the threat of explosions from Edwards vacuum," Scirto said. "According to their safety data sheets, they use dozens of flammable and several explosive chemicals."

Ciurzynski said, "We're building a specific pump here. It's not all of Edwards vacuums products. We don't have chemicals that are spontaneously going to combust. Everything is going on is within the regulations of the EPA and the DEC."

Scirto also claimed that Edwards is planning to build on top of environmentally sensitive wetlands and faulted The Batavian for previously reporting otherwise.

The Batavian's prior story was based on official government reports that could have easily been obtained by Scirto prior to the meeting.  Both representatives of Edward and GCEDC said both the planning document and The Batavian's story were accurate.  There will be no wetlands disturbed by the Edwards facility.

Wackett said, "In the article in The Batavian, I read about the wetlands and not disturbing the wetlands. Well, let me make a comment that we already disturbed the wetlands. How many spills have we had now already trying to construct this sewer pipe? 600 gallons of fracking fluid is now inside the refuge. That endangered bog turtle. That endangered short-eared owls. And all that endangered northern Harrier -- all those species depend on these wetlands. It's a migratory bird route that you guys just decided to, I don't know about you guys (meaning the planning board), but Genesee County Economic Development Center decided to just plop an industrial park right in the middle of the Tonawanda State Wildlife Management Area, the Iroquois National Wildlife Areas, protected area. I don't understand how they can just put a sewer pipeline in the middle of it."

The STAMP project is entirely outside of both protected areas.

Masse said in the hallway as soon as the meeting was over, "To clarify, there are no wetlands being impacted by this project."

Ciurzynski immediately added, "Your story was accurate. Our survey has been registered with the town and this county. To avoid this (wetlands), we didn't buy that land (containing wetlands)."

As for Wackett's claim that GCEDC that "600 gallons of fracking fluid is now inside the refuge," Masse said that statement isn't accurate.

He said during the construction of the wastewater pipeline, a channel is drilled through the subsurface and then filled with what is essentially mud to hold the line's shape while the pipe is slid into place. "

"It's basically water and clay," Masse said. "The soil is so soft that it actually ended up going out through the soil. We've done the appropriate cleanups, we had an approved frac-out plan with the DEC ahead of time as part of our permitting. We are making improvements to it, and all of that cleanup and review is subject to the DEC review."

Asked to clarify what happened, Masse said, "In some cases in the refuge, the ground is so porous that when they put the mud in, it leaks out through the sides. It came up to the surface. And that's what they call a frac-out. But it is nothing more than mud. So we had vac trucks on site and cleaned it up. We have subject to DEC inspection on that and in accordance with our frac-out plan."

He said the frac-out has been cleaned up, and while still subject to a DEC follow-up inspection, Masse indicated the event posed no threat to wildlife.

"I just need to make the comment for the short-eared owl," Wackett said. "From what I understand and what I've read, that the short-eared owl has already declined in numbers since this project has started."

Masse said GCEDC has followed all DEC guidelines and regulations regarding the short-eared owl and north Harrier. 

"Essentially," Masse said, the short-eared owl northern Harrier issue has been resolved as we've received a permit to be able to develop that property. As a part of that, we've created a grassland habitat for those birds as the offset for the impact and taking that property. And that permit was issued, I think, in June or July."

As for Wackett's claim that the owl population has already declined, Masse said there is no evidence of that, and there can't be any definitive evidence because of the migratory habit of the species.

"We've done studies over the years, and those birds are non-geo specific, which means they don't come back to the same location every year," Masse said. "So they could be here one year, they could go somewhere else for six years, they could come back here in year seven. I'm sure statewide studies are being done, but whether those are higher or lower, it's hard to tell."

At the start of his talk, Scirto said the Seneca Nation had sued to stop the STAMP development.  It's unclear if that was a reference to the 2021 lawsuit filed against GCEDC that was later settled or if he believes there is a pending lawsuit. GCEDC officials are unaware of any pending lawsuit filed by the Seneca Nation.

Orleans County has filed a lawsuit in a dispute over the sewer pipeline project that runs north into Orleans County. It's not clear from the language of the suit that the aim is to "stop" STAMP, as Scirto claimed during the meeting.  The Town of Shelby recently voted to join the lawsuit, even though Shelby previously approved the pipeline.

Whatever is going on with the lawsuits, Edwards Vacuum is not concerned, Ciurzynski said.

"It doesn't concern us because we do care about the environment," Ciurzynski said. "We care about the local people, the farmers. Something people need to know is Edwards Vacuum and Atlas Copco are really conscientious and intentional about their science-based initiatives to reduce their global footprint, global carbon footprint."

Returning to the issue of emissions raised by Scirto, Ciurzynski indicated Edwards has a plant in Korea doing what the Alabama plant will do, but it is "landlocked." It can expand. The STAMP site gives Edwards room for growth, but it also means its products will no longer be shipped by air cargo to the U.S., which will cut carbon emissions.

"Unfortunately, in building, you're not gonna make everybody happy," Ciurzynski said. "We can't keep everything pristine and green. We're trying to keep more than 60 percent of the site green. We're trying to make the building as green as possible by going all-electric, not having fossil fuels.

As part of the green effort, the site will have walking paths so people can enjoy the green space.

Masse said GCEDC has been complying with environmental regulations throughout the planning and development process.

"We've been working with the DEC, the Army Corps of Engineers, and our permit through the Wildlife Refuge took five years to obtain. There were two public meetings, and public hearings were held, and with that, there was a NEPA process done. We followed all the appropriate regulatory steps through this process to date. We are as transparent, and I think you would admit that we are as transparent and organization as you're going to find. We've done everything out in the open. We've done everything in the public. We've done every approval we need to do, and we continue to, and I don't think people realize how much the regulatory agencies have oversight over all construction, over all of the development. You talk stormwater management to the DEC. You talk about construction safety to the Town of Alabama. Operational-wise, it's the town of Alabama, it's the DEC. So there are enough regulatory agencies where I don't think a company would be able to do some of the things that had been said here today without being found immediately, without having somebody know what's going on. So I don't know if they just don't understand how development works. But the amount of oversight and regulatory oversight that happens in New York State is a lot."

The Seneca Nation
Both Ciurzynski and Masse said Edwards and STAMP want to be good neighbors to the Tonawanda Indian Reservation.

"We do care about Native Americans," Ciurzynski said. "We want them to be part of our facility. We want them to work with us. We want them to work at our facility. We want to provide livelihoods so that they can have generational jobs that they don't have to drive miles to get to. It's right next door. You can have a good job and work with wonderful people in a LEAD-certified building that's as green as possible."

Masse said GCEDC has always been open to working with tribal leaders.

"We've been outreaching with the Nation diligently for at least the last seven years, if not the last 13," Masse said. "They just choose not to participate, which is their right."

Public Awareness
As to the implication raised by Wackett that people have been kept in the dark, Masse noted that GCEDC has hosted a number of well-publicized public meetings and public hearings.  There was ample opportunity 13 years ago to raise the objections being raised now.

"There are 60,000 people in Genesee County, and we had two people show up who opposed this and said they said they had 500," Masse said. "In the grand scheme of things, you know, I understand people want to be heard. But the majority of the people here, like the Town of Alabama, spoke 13 years ago. And quite honestly, the time to express your concerns about the project would have been 13 years ago when we were going through the EIS process. I think we held 25 to 30 public meetings. So you know, that process was a public process. And there are a lot of concerns voiced, but at the end of the day, the community overwhelmingly was in favor of it."

David Ciurzynski
David Ciurzynski, a local consultant representing Edwards Vacuum, during his presentation on Thursday to the Genesee County Planning Board.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Evelyn Wackett
Evelyn Wackett, a wildlife rehabber from Erie County, spoked against STAMP at Thursday's Planning Board meeting.
Photo by Howard Owens.

County Planning Board approves BK variances, plan goes back to the city

By Joanne Beck
Batavia Restaurant Supply
The future location of a new Burger King, which has been making the rounds to the city and county planning boards the last few months, will be at the corner of West Main and North Lyon streets in Batavia. The applicant received another green light from the Genesee County Planning Board Thursday.
2023 File Photo by Howard Owens

The Genesee County Planning Board unanimously approved two variances for the proposed Burger King drive-through at 301-305 West  Main St., Batavia during its Thursday evening meeting.

The applicant, Carrols LLC, represented by site engineer Peter Sorgi, requested two variances to allow for 26 parking spaces versus the required minimum of 32 spaces, and for a building height of 18.66 feet, which would be .66 8 inches more than the maximum allowable 18 feet.

The Planning Board deemed the variances as posing “no significant county-wide or inter-community impact.” 

The project has appeared on the table of the city’s Planning and Development Committee at least three times, each time returning with requested revisions to the design, including the addition of more green space in correlation to adjusting the size of the driveway and number of parking spots. The plan has also gone to the city's Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Although the County Planning Board approved this latest modification, Sorgi is expected to return to the group at least once more with a full site plan in October, Planning Board Director Felipe Oltramari said.

The project is also on the agenda for the next City Planning & Development Committee meeting on Tuesday to discuss the two variance issues of off-street parking and building height. It’s likely the committee will recommend that the applicant return to the ZBA again for review, according to the agenda. 

This Burger King will replace the current site on the opposite side of Main Street and will be at the corner of West Main and North Lyon streets.

Genesee County planners recommend approval of two Alexander Road community solar projects

By Mike Pettinella


San Francisco-based Renewable Properties is entering the Genesee County solar market with the proposed development of a pair of independent community solar projects on Alexander Road in the Town of Batavia.

Brian Madigan, the company’s senior permitting manager, introduced the two ground-mounted plans on Thursday night at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

Renewable Properties, working with Bergmann Associates engineering firm of Rochester, is seeking approval of special use permits to install a 14-acre, 3-megawatt solar farm on a 29-acre parcel at 9183 Alexander Rd. and a 10-acre, 1.6-megawatt system at 9071 Alexander Rd.

Both systems are earmarked for prime farmland in parcels zoned Agricultural-Residential.

“We’re excited to get going,” Madigan said after the meeting, noting that a yearlong moratorium on solar projects in the town has ended.

County planners recommended approval of both projects, stipulating that the applicant should seek 9-1-1 Address Verification with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that the address of the system meets 9-1-1 standards.

The 3-megawatt system, known as Pike Road Solar Project, is located just north of the intersection of Alexander Road and Pike Road on property owned by John and Kerry Hylkema. Documents indicate it will utilize 6,942 solar panels and 24 string inverters, with an overall height of the array exceeding 15 feet.

The 1.6-megawatt system, knowns as Alexander Road Solar Project, is located about a third of a mile from the other proposed site -- just south of the intersection of Alexander Road and Rose Road on property owned by Daniel Reuter. It will utilize 3,718 solar panels and 13 string inverters, also with an overall height of the array exceeding 15 feet.

Both property owners have signed 35-year lease agreements with Renewable Properties, which also is developing solar projects in Lockport in Niagara County and Marilla in Erie County, Madigan said.

As community solar initiatives, both proposed solar farms allow Town of Batavia residents who are National Grid customers to subscribe to part of a larger, offsite shared system and receive credits (savings) on their electric bills.

Kristin Jacobs, assistant project manager at Bergmann Associates, said the two projects, combined, will provide electricity for close to 1,500 homes.

The proposals require approval by the Batavia Town Planning Board before moving forward. They are on the agenda of that committee’s next meeting, set for 7 p.m. next Tuesday at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

Photo: Brian Madigan of Renewable Properties and Kristin Jacobs of Bergmann Associates address the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Pembroke man set to 'glow' for it as neon light specialist

By Mike Pettinella

After a long career in the natural gas and oil exploration industry, Pembroke resident William Gerych is ready to put the “bright” idea he has been holding onto for a while into action.

Gerych and his wife, Mary Ann, attended tonight’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road, seeking a special use permit for a home-based business: Creating and repairing neon signs.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Gerych, who has worked for Lenape Resources, Inc., of Alexander for the past 39 years. “I like bending glass and have learned that it is truly an art.”

He said he spent six weeks learning the craft in a one-on-one training session with Howie Cohen, owner of Just Neon in Utica.

Gerych said neon sign repair is a “dying industry” because there aren’t a lot of people specializing in the vocation, but believes there is a market for it. His business plan is to advertise through the internet and to contact stores and restaurants that either sell or display the signs.

The planning board, understanding that Gerych will work out of his pole barn-style garage behind his house, recommended approval of the special use permit request with the stipulation that storage and disposal of any hazardous materials must comply with state and federal regulations.

In other action, the board recommended approval of:

  • The downtown design site plan for a new façade at 35 Batavia City Centre for the Batavia Players’ Main Street 56 Theater;
  • Site plan of additions to two office buildings under construction on the Gateway GS LLC (Gallina Development) site on Call Parkway. One building is going from 22,200 square feet to 30,000 square feet and the other is going from 27,000 square feet to 33,600 square feet. A third building, designated for future construction, will be reduced from 27,000 square feet to 17,400 square feet;
  • Site plan for a 55- by 70-foot addition at O-At-Ka Milk Products on Ellicott Street Road, a project known as a MaCC Room Expansion.

Burk: Planning board dates represent significant 'steps' toward completion of new Main Street 56 Theater

By Mike Pettinella


Just as in a dance recital or musical, executing all the “steps” properly are vital in the process of redeveloping existing space into an attractive public venue.

Patrick Burk, president, executive and artistic director of the Batavia Players, today said he understands the significance of the Main Street 56 Theater project reaching the planning board stage over the next week.

The Genesee County Planning Board will be considering the Downtown Revitalization Initiative site plan on Thursday night, and the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee is on track to do the same on April 19.

“It's wonderful that we have a lot of people working on the project that, I guess I could say, know what they're doing,” Burk said. “I'm learning as we go and making sure that we keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether it's a big step or a small step. It looks like over the next week or so, we're going to be making some pretty big steps – moving forward to getting more of the construction work done.”

Batavia Players, Inc., was awarded more than $700,000 from New York State’s DRI and another $400,000 from the NY Main Street Grant program to transform space at the City Centre into a contemporary theater to showcase its productions.

“And we raised about $210,000 ourselves, and we're continually working to raise that that dollar amount even higher as we need it for the work that we're doing,” Burk said, noting that the project will cost in the $1.5 million range.

For the past 20 months or so, the troupe has been performing in a temporary space at the City Centre.

“We call it our backstage theater because we have so much space there that we're using right now,” Burk said. “We're performing in that space while the construction is going on.”

The Batavia Players presented Shakespeare in Springtime: Love’s Labour’s Lost in March, and will be presenting The Springtime Music Spectacular: Back on the Boards Again, a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, on April 22-24.


A special craft/vendor show, including a hotdog stand operated by the Batavia Lions Club, is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30.

“That’s when we will have our open house in the temporary theater space and in our dance academy,” Burk said. “We’re also going to be showing the space as it stands right now -- wherever they're at on April 30 -- so that people can see the development of the space. So, yes, we will be going into the construction space as well.”

As far as when the new facility will be ready, Burk said he hopes construction will be done by the Batavia Players’ Christmas show – Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical – in early December.

For now, he said he’s excited that the project is in the hands of the two planning boards.

“I'm so thrilled that we're going to the county planning board because that's a big step. We have to have approval for that because we sit on a state highway. And our frontage is on a state highway and we're making quote, unquote, significant changes to that frontage,” he said.

Burk said the site plans and architectural drawings are “sitting there at City Hall, all set and ready to go.”

“We’re just waiting for these approvals, and we’re hoping that it moves forward as quickly as possible,” he said. “Once that step is done, it will be gangbusters, since we’ve been assured by our construction manager that it’s going to go pretty solidly and pretty quickly.”

More information about the Batavia Players can be found at


Top: Architect's rendering of the facade of Main Street 56 Theater, the new home of the Batavia Players, which is under construction at the City Centre. Bottom: The way it looks now -- unfinished -- next to Genesee Dental along Main Street. Bottom photo by Mike Pettinella.

Cutting the red tape: Planning board offers 14 zoning items that are exempt from county review

By Mike Pettinella

Looking to cut out a bureaucratic level, streamline the zoning code process and save money, the Genesee County Planning Board has come up with a list of “local only” referral items that would be exempt from its review.

“What we have done is take a look at the smaller projects that would just get our standard approval with no comments from us,” County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said today. “If you consider our meeting last night, two of the referrals would have been eliminated from the agenda – one that came in from a homeowner for a shed variance and one for a downtown (Batavia) design review.”

The planning department has drafted a template that includes 14 exemptions that would have to be adopted by town or village boards or the Batavia City Council.

Oltramari said the agreement is based on General Municipal Law, Article 12-B, Section 239-m.3. (c) which allows for the planning board to enter into an agreement with a city, town or village planning board, zoning board of appeals or municipal board to eliminate the referral requirement of certain land use actions deemed to be of local, rather than intercommunity or countywide concern.

“A referral for those actions would be optional, but no longer mandatory,” he said, adding that the county attorney has reviewed the proposal, which would be the same for all municipalities. “We have taken care to include all of the routine referrals types that usually do not result in any comments from the county planning board and where approval is almost always a recommendation.”

He said that he has already received a signed agreement from the Town of Pavilion.

Oltramari said code enforcement officers at the municipal level will determine whether an item needs to be referred to the planning board – using the list as their guide.

“This could save a significant amount of time in the process of getting a project through,” he said. “I think it's a benefit to both the communities and their constituents because they may not have to travel to the planning board meeting. It will save time and money.”

He also said all applications to the county planning board become permanent paper records that have to be stored, meaning more time and expense.

The 14 planning and zoning actions that have been determined to be typically of a local rather than intercommunity or countywide concern that are exempt from review by the Genesee County Planning Board are as follows:

  • Area variances to rear or side-yard setback requirements for single and two-family residential uses.
  • Area variances to yard setback requirements (rear, side or front) for accessory structures, as defined by the municipality, provided the variance does not propose the structure be closer to a State or County highway or municipal boundary than the existing principal structure.
  • Area variances for accessory structures, as defined by the municipality, for being in front of the principal building, provided the accessory structure would meet the front-yard setback required of a principal building.
  • Area variances and/or permits for freestanding signs or fences except when proposed along a State or County highway.
  • Area variances for parking or driveways not accessing a State or County highway.
  • Special use permits or site plan reviews for home occupations/businesses not accessing a State or County highway and that meet all applicable local municipal code requirements.
  • Special use permits or site plan reviews for the co-location of telecommunications equipment on an existing telecommunications tower/facility.
  • Special use permits or site plan reviews for new ponds or pond expansions that meet all applicable local municipal code requirements, provided that the construction will not disturb more than an acre of land and as per the SEQRA review, will not impact archaeological resources, threatened or endangered species, or State or Federal regulated wetlands.
  • Site Plan Review or Design Review for the interior or exterior remodeling of a new use allowed in that zoning district including building-mounted signage that meets all applicable local municipal code requirements, and does not cause changes to other aspects of the site.
  • Subdivisions or re-subdivisions for minor lot-line adjustments on existing lots where no additional lots are created and there is no change to access points and no new access points are proposed on State or County highways.
  • Subdivision of land into two lots that meet all applicable local municipal code requirements provided such subdivision occur within a Genesee County Smart Growth Development Area.
  • Land use moratoria not exceeding 12-months, except that a notice shall be sent to the Genesee County Planning Department for informational purposes.
  • Administrative and fee amendments to the zoning code (i.e., general provisions, permit procedures, powers and duties of local boards and officers, penalties for offenses, public hearing requirements, organization, and amendment procedures).
  • Interpretations of the municipal zoning code.

Planning board falls back on its purpose in decision to 'disapprove' Stafford solar project variance requests

By Mike Pettinella


While acknowledging that the solar project proposed by BW Solar on behalf of a Batavia Stafford Townline Road couple was well-thought-out, the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night voted to recommend disapproval due to concerns over setback variance requests.

The board’s action, taken during its monthly meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, sends the referral back to the Stafford Town Board for final determination.

Robert and Michelle Wood of 8244 Batavia Stafford Townline Rd. are hoping to place two 5-megawatt, ground-mounted solar systems on their farmland. One will cover 31.08 acres and the other will cover 28.32 acres.

The couple, along with Dan Huntington, project developer for BW Solar, were on the Zoom call last night.

They came into the meeting knowing that the Genesee County Planning Department staff had issued a recommendation of disapproval due to the setback variances being requested “grossly exceed the requirements of the Town of Stafford’s Zoning Law.”

Stafford’s solar zoning regulations are much more restrictive in terms of the distance from neighboring properties than most others in the county, said Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, adding that a request for a variance from the Real Property Value Protection clause of the law may not be permissible.


Still, Huntington presented a solid case for approval of the site plan, special use permit and area variances for the project – earning praise on the layout from planners and convincing one member, John Deleo, to make a motion for approval (which died from a lack of a second).

BW Solar’s proposal calls for setbacks of 75 feet from residential property lines, where a minimum required per the Stafford law is 1,000 feet, and it also asks for reduction of setbacks along nonresidential property lines from 200 feet to 100 feet, 50 feet and zero feet depending upon the location on the map.

The area is zoned as an Industrial Park (IP) District, which is appropriate for such a project.

Huntington emphasized that the Town of Stafford has some “unique solar laws in place that far exceed what you’re typically seeing throughout the county.”

He said he has been involved in previous projects in the county – one in Elba and one in Pavilion – that were approved by county planners.

“And the two projects we have here are two separate 5-megawatt projects because that's what NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development Authority) guidelines require us to do for community distributed generation projects,” he said. “We do kind of talk about them as one project, but they are two separate LLCs and two separate projects. They are co-located on two parcels of land that Bob and Michelle Wood own.”


Stating that he understood the challenges posed by the Stafford solar ordinance and the Real Property Value Protection clause, Huntington pointed out that the 1,000-foot setback “is a stipulation that is not required for any other portion of industry throughout Stafford solar zoning laws and the 2,500-foot setback is also very unique to solar specific and would actually stretch over the highway into a large portion of Batavia as well.”

“So, those are two larger elements that we are looking at for a variance. We applied for those variances based on the guidance of our attorneys at Harris Beach, and also with communication with the town attorney. That was direction that he gave us as to first steps -- to apply for a variance for those two pieces.”

Huntington went on to say that he believed Stafford officials didn’t want solar farms encroaching upon neighboring homes, but that the Woods’ proposal is different in that it is shielded by farmland on one side and railroad tracks on another.

Sharing a visual of the layout as he spoke, Huntington said he, working with engineers at LaBella Associates, strived to make efficient use of the space – in one instance asking for a property setback to be at zero to utilize space for a shared fence for the two solar systems.

“If we were to follow the solar law and have a 200-foot setback on either side of this property line, it would create a 400-foot dead zone that not only we couldn't use, but it would be extremely inefficient for Bob and Michelle to continue their farming operation,” he said.

Huntington said the preference is to share a road entrance “so we're not building additional roads to each 5-megawatt array because they are legally required to be individually fenced.”

“By reducing the setback, we could put the gravel road right down the middle, share a fence and again reduce the amount of impact we have to the farmable land.”


In summary, he said that while the variance difference “may be a little bit higher than what the board is comfortable with in the past, we are just trying to find a way to accommodate this project and still honor the intent of the law when it comes to some of the setbacks.”

“So, my request of the board would be to look at the project as a whole within the county and potentially vote to support the project and allow the zoning board and the town board to make the decision as to whether or not these variances are acceptable to them in their town,” he said. “Because a negative vote could potentially cause additional stresses for them in terms of whether or not they're going to approve or deny something.”

The Woods noted that the solar farms will sit back in their field – protected by a lot of trees.

“You won’t be able to really see it from (Route) 33,” Michelle said. “It’s set way up back. If we can get those variances in place, then we can continue to farm all around the front of it, which would be protected by corn because we grow a lot of corn.”

Planner Tom Schubmehl advised everyone that the planning board’s role “is to gauge intercommunity impacts and to make sure that towns are following their law.”

“That's our role -- not to decide what the towns want or should have or whether it's applicable to the rest of the county,” he said. “Our job is to make sure they're following their law, and that there's no intercommunity impacts. So, from that perspective … it's a nicely designed solar project compared to some of the other ones we have seen. But that's not our role to decided what Stafford wants.”

Planning Board Chair Laraine Caton said she agreed.

“Right. And ultimately, they have the final say, anyway,” she said.

A vote was taken on both projects separately. The outcome was 5-1 each time for disapproval with Deleo -- who thought the 2,500-foot setback was “a little extreme" -- in opposition of that action.

Drawing of BW Solar proposal showing College Road (notch in green section at left) coming into Batavia Stafford Townline Road. Solar panels are in gray; setbacks are in green. Courtesy of Genesee County Planning Department.

Previously: Genesee County Planning Department finds fault with Stafford solar project proposal

County planning board talks about sidewalks en route to recommending approval of Le Roy patio home project

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County planners tonight debated the need for a sidewalk extension on Lake Street (Route 19) before recommending approval with modifications of a special use permit for Batavia businessman Eric Biscaro to construct a 60-unit patio home development in the Village of Le Roy.

Biscaro did not attend the Zoom meeting as he recused himself since he also is a member of the Genesee County Planning Board. He was represented by Megan Hensel, a project manager.

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said he saw no problems with issuing a special use permit for Biscaro to build 30 duplex homes on 16 acres off Route 19 in an area already zoned R-3 (Residential) other than requiring the applicant to work with the village to provide a sidewalk extension to the south (toward downtown Le Roy) on the west side of the state highway.

Other modifications including completing a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, obtaining a Stormwater Permit for Construction Activity from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and adhering to guidelines of the State Historic Preservation Office.

Hensel said Biscaro wasn’t on board with the sidewalk provision as he didn’t want to be “digging across people’s brand new driveways.”

“We don’t think the development will impact the sidewalks,” she said.

Oltramari said he wanted to give residents of the development – it’s for people 50 years of age and older – the option to have sidewalks if they wished to walk south toward the Le Roy business section.

“But, I guess there is a little more wiggle room on this recommendation because there is a sidewalk across the street,” he said. “The only problem is that it is State Route 19 and we probably necessarily don’t want people crossing a state highway and walk somewhere to get to the sidewalk.”

He mentioned that there are several churches down the street and other amenities, and that people like to walk their dogs as well.

Hensel replied, “For our clientele, that’s quite a hike from our property into the village to even get to a church.”

Planning Board member Tom Schubmehl agreed.

“Knowing several people in patio homes, they're going to patio homes because they can’t pick their foot up to get in the door,” he said. “Thinking they’re going to hike from there to downtown Le Roy. I know we’re pushing as much as we can the walkability of communities, but that’s a tough … As long as you don’t have it as a requirement, I’m OK with it.”

It then was suggested to change the modification to read that Biscaro should work with the village “to determine if a sidewalk extension is warranted.”

At that point, the special use permit was approved – forwarding the site plan to the Le Roy Planning Board for review.

Previously: Biscaro is back. Batavia businessman looks to develop 30 duplex homes off Lake Street in Village of Le Roy

Planners on board with Kmart parking lot project; still no word on what businesses will occupy the space

By Mike Pettinella


An engineering director for the Benderson Development Co. tonight did not reveal what businesses will be coming into a two-track commercial venture on the parking lot of the former Kmart at the intersection of Lewiston and Park roads.

Speaking at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, Matthew Oates said he did not have any signed leases at this point for the proposed project that would create (1) a 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru and bypass lane on the southwest corner and (2) a 6,752-square-foot retail/restaurant building with a 2,000-square-foot endcap coffee shop with drive-thru on the southeast corner (see drawing below).

These two businesses would be located along Lewiston Road, using existing entrances to the parking lot off Lewiston and Park. The Kmart building, itself, is not part of the venture.

“We are working with tenants,” said Oates, who was on the call along with Katherine Rowe, design engineer. “And our expectation would be that when the building construction is complete that there will be tenants occupying at least some of the space. We wouldn't be putting these up and then having them sit there vacant. I don’t have anyone I can tell you today. Unfortunately, I wish I could.”

County planners recommended approval of the site plan and special use permit for the project, taking their lead from Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, who stated that the development would pose no significant countywide or intercommunity impact.

It is required, however, that Benderson complies with Town of Batavia zoning regulations as they pertain to signage on the buildings.

Oates said the company plans to add green space “around the buildings (and) additional green islands within the parking lot as well.”

He mentioned that because more than an acre will be disturbed, his company submitted a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.

“We do have the elevations,” he said. “We think it is an attractive building with the mixture of EIFS cornice, fabric awnings and stone treatments, as well. So, overall, we're very excited for the project to get it start going and to really start redeveloping this section of the Batavia and really, hopefully, bring an enhancement to this area.”

Oates said an additional traffic light won't be necessary since there already is one at the intersection of Lewiston and Park roads.

Planner Tom Schubmehl commended Oates for “doing a nice job controlling traffic on Lewiston,” but asked if there would be an issue of cars cutting through the parking lot from Park Road to the opposite corner.

“Are you going to do anything in the parking lot that's going to prevent people from just blasting through the parking lot from north to south?” he asked.

Oates said nothing specific was in the works, noting that with similar developments, the new businesses “eliminate someone coming in on one side and then just flying through the parking lot to get across because now there's cars in there.”

“There's cars parked there, cars coming in the other direction. So, we find the actual businesses and bringing customers in, really starts to make people follow the traffic and the striping and everything else much more than they do when it's an empty parking lot like it is out there today.”

The project now will be considered by the Town Planning Board, likely at its next meeting on Tuesday night (March 15).

Previously: Developer proposes retail/restaurant businesses on former Kmart property along Lewiston Road


Top: Architect renderings of outside of proposed buildings at Kmart parking lot. Bottom: Overhead view of the two developments off Lewiston Road.

Genesee County Planning Department finds fault with Stafford solar project proposal

By Mike Pettinella

Should the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night follow the lead of the Genesee County Planning Department staff, proposals to install two 5-megawatt, ground-mounted solar systems in the Town of Stafford will be sent back to the drawing board.

The planning department staff is recommending disapproval of the referral submitted by the Stafford Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals in connection with a site plan to construct the solar farms on property owned by Robert and Michelle Wood of 8244 Batavia Stafford Townline Road.

At their meeting tomorrow night (7 o’clock via Zoom videoconferencing), planners will consider a special use permit and area variances for a 31.08-acre and a 28.32-acre, side-by-side system.

The problem with the plan, according to information provided by Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, is that the setback variances requested “grossly exceed the requirements of the Town of Stafford’s Zoning Law.”

The law stipulates a 200-foot minimum for setbacks to nonresidential property lines; the proposal asks for 100 feet to the east, north and south, and zero feet to the west, bordering the adjacent solar project. The law also stipulates a 1,000-foot minimum to residential property lines; the proposal seeks a 75-foot setback.

A third variance for fence height from the maximum 6 feet to 7 feet also is being requested.

Oltramari said that granting of such large variances by the Stafford ZBA may undermine the local law adopted by the town board and set a precedent for future applications.

“In addition, the application requests a variance from the Real Property Value Protection clause of the law,” he said. “Since this is not a use or dimensional requirement, it is questionable as to whether the ZBA can grant such a waiver.”

He is suggesting the applicants (the Woods and BW Solar of Ontario, Canada) petition the town board to amend its solar law instead of seeking variances from the ZBA “especially given that Stafford's solar regulations differ significantly from other towns in Genesee County.”

Besides special use permit requests by Eric Biscaro for a senior housing development in the Town of Le Roy and Benderson Development LLC for two new restaurants/retail buildings that were previously reported on The Batavian, other referrals of note for tomorrow night’s meeting are as follows:

-- A downtown site plan review to make exterior changes to the Alberty Drugs mixed-use building at 78-81 Main St., Batavia. The proposal, submitted by project manager David Ciurzynski, calls for installing storefront windows on the south façade to allow for more natural light into the space, and the elimination of an exterior door and an existing wall sign.


-- Area variances to construct two 83.5-foot tanks and four 41-foot tanks for the Genesee Biogas LLC project at 4800 West Ag Park Drive in the Town of Batavia (illustration is above). The company needs the variances as the height requirement in the Industrial Park District is a maximum of 40 feet. Oltramari said planners will consider the height request at this time, with a site plan review to come.

-- A site plan review to construct a 50,000-square-foot (100 by 500) warehouse building at Apple Tree Acres LLC in the Town of Bergen.  Half of the building is earmarked for a new industrial manufacturing tenant and half will be used for additional storage by the existing tenant – Hank Parker Rental.

Developer proposes retail/restaurant businesses on former Kmart property along Lewiston Road

By Mike Pettinella


Are they ever going to do something with the former Kmart at the corner of Lewiston and Park roads?

That is yet to be determined but the Benderson Development Co., which owns the building, is ready to place a couple of commercial ventures on another section of the 10.3-acre property at the corner of Lewiston and Park roads in the Town of Batavia.

According to a letter sent to the Town Planning Board by James Boglioli, Right-to-Build Northeast US director for the Buffalo-based real estate firm, two retail/restaurant businesses are being proposed for the site along Lewiston Road – south of the Kmart building:

  • A 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru and bypass lane to be located in the southwest corner of the property;
  • A 6,752-square-foot retail/restaurant building with a 2,000-square-foot endcap coffee shop with drive-thru in the southeast corner of the property.

Contacted by telephone this morning, Boglioli declined to provide further details until Thursday night’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting, which is set for 7 o’clock and will be conducted via Zoom videoconferencing.

Furthermore, per the letter, the project also will include drainage upgrades to bring the site into compliance with the current storm water regulations, an increase in overall greenspace and landscaping, utility upgrades and new curbing, pavement and site lighting around the proposed buildings.

As far as parking is concerned, Boglioli’s letter states that the two proposed outparcel buildings will require 84 parking spaces – much less than the 366 parking spaces on the property.

Boglioli’s letter also indicates that, at this point, there are no proposed uses for the 116,238-square-foot Kmart structure – “and any reuse of (that building) is anticipated to require significantly less parking than the former K Mart required per code, and it is expected that the use would be compatible with the proposed outparcel project.”

The referral to be considered by county planners calls for the issuance of a special use permit.

The letter contends that proposed drive-thru configurations will not adversely affect the surroundings and “provide sufficient stacking within two dedicated drive thru lanes and any additional stacking that extends out of the dedicated drive thru lanes would be captured internal to the site.”

Drawing at top shows two restaurant proposals for the former Kmart property along Lewiston Road in the Town of Batavia. The Kmart building is labeled "vacant" at the top of the site map. Provided by Genesee County Planning Department.

Planners on board with addition of warehouse/office complex at Brickhouse Commons in Pembroke

By Mike Pettinella


Randy Fancher, president of J&R Specialties of Akron, citing ongoing supply chain issues and inflation, presented a fourth version of his company’s plan to develop three parcels at the corner of Route 5 and Route 77 in the Town of Pembroke to the Genesee County Planning Board tonight.

“We’ve been here before,” said Fancher, speaking of the planning board’s previous approvals of the Brickhouse Commons LLC mixed-use project – a pair of buildings combining retail and residential near Brickhouse Corners Drive and Tim Hortons, and across from Pembroke High School.

While that venture is still on the table, Fancher and his brother, Jeff, vice president, now are proposing to construct a 42,000-square-foot warehouse and office building – between the two mixed-use structures.

“Our core business needs have changed drastically over the last year with all the supply chain issues and inflation, and so we are now having to stock way more product than in the past,” he said. “So, now this is our core need for this warehouse.”

Fancher told The Batavian that the company’s current set-up – working out of three separate facilities in Akron – is “extremely inefficient.”

“As everything in the world has changed recently, we have decided it would be much more efficient to build a new warehouse/office complex large enough to have everything under one roof,” he said.

Pending final approvals from the town and other agencies, the Fanchers said they are committed to developing the warehouse/office first, followed by the mixed-use apartments/retail space and, eventually, a three-story mixed use building with commercial on the first floor and 17 apartments on the second and third floors farther south along Route 77.

Fancher said that J&R Specialties already has received approvals for the mixed-use buildings, which are located in the Genesee County Economic Development Center’s Buffalo East Technology Park in the town’s Interchange District.

Planning Board member Tom Schubmehl, a Pembroke resident, asked Fancher about the amount of truck traffic the warehousing operation would produce.

Fancher replied that the plan calls for the loading dock to accommodate three tractor-trailers at any time, adding that he figures there will be three to five semis at the location per day.

“… the drawing we submitted was only a conceptual,” he said. “We had to check with the Town of Pembroke to see if they needed curbs -- what their curb requirements were. Once we get approval, we’ll move into an actual site plan and then we can address semi flow.”

Planning Board Chair Laraine Caton noted that the intersection will become quite contested before Planning Director Felipe Oltramari mentioned that the trucks will enter and exit from Brickhouse Corners Drive, which is off of Route 5.

The board then recommended approval of the site plan, with modifications pertaining to acquisition of a stormwater permit, signage that complies with the town’s zoning regulations, and meeting Enhanced 9-1-1 standards and (the recently added) public safety radio system in-building coverage requirements.


The planning board also recommended approval of the Town of Pembroke’s desire to amend its zoning test to include “cannabis related businesses” throughout the 41.7-square-mile municipality.

The town has opted in to allow cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption establishments in accordance with New York State’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. Other Genesee County communities that opted in are the City of Batavia, Towns of Darien and Pavilion, and Village of Corfu.

The text amendment would allow for cannabis related businesses to operate with a special use permit.

Schubmehl commented that Pembroke will become “the county’s business center for marijuana distribution,” prompting Oltramari to advise that cannabis sales already are taking place on the nearby Tonawanda Seneca Nation Reservation.


Oltramari said that Genesee County is number one in the state thus far in terms of people responding to an online survey about broadband access ( He said that 3 percent of households have filled out the survey, which is twice as much as any other county.

County residents completing the survey can enter a drawing for a “Dine, Stay & Play Package” at Batavia Downs Gaming which includes a one-night stay for two at the Hotel at Batavia Downs and $50 towards a meal at Fortune’s restaurant (valid Sunday-Thursday).

The planning director said he will be presenting the Genesee 2050 Comprehensive Plan and Recreation Plan to the County Legislature’s Public Service Committee next Tuesday.

Drawing above: Brickhouse Commons site plan -- Route 5 (Main Road) is at right; Route 77 (Alleghany Road) is at the bottom. The proposed warehouse/office building is located between the two proposed commercial/residential buildings. 

Previously: GCEDC board approves assistance for Pembroke mixed-use project

Genesee County planners recommend approval of Darien wind turbine plan, two referrals in Batavia

By Mike Pettinella

For Padma Kasthurirangan, a national expert in wind energy distribution, a project being promoted by Whitecap Electric, LLC, of Amherst, in the Town of Darien can’t begin fast enough.

“We would like to start, like two years ago, but our construction will probably be in 2023,” said Kasthurirangan, responding to The Batavian’s question about a starting date for the installation of two wind turbines of up to 2.5 megawatts each on farmland at 2311 Bennett Road.

The chief engineer and president of Buffalo Renewables, she was in Batavia tonight -- along with three colleagues – at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting at County Building 2.

County planners recommended approval of the site plan and special use permit, with a few modifications pertaining to decommissioning, visual impact and bird analysis studies, and stormwater prevention.

As reported on The Batavian yesterday, the $6 million project calls for the wind turbines, which would be connected to the grid under the Community Distributed Generation program, to be about 450 feet high.

During the meeting, Kasthurirangan informed planners that her company has been working on this for quite some time, and is committed to meeting all requirements put forth by the Town of Darien.

She said utilities will be placed under the ground and that the company is not requesting any variances.

John Hannon, a partner with Triad Recycle and Energy in Buffalo, added that they’re waiting for National Grid to determine where it wants the connection, and will restore any disrupted land to agricultural use.

Also representing the project at the meeting were Vasu Primlani, business development manager at Buffalo Renewables and a renowned environmentalist, and engineer Kenneth Rawe Jr.

Hannon said that Triad Recycle and Energy has two wind turbines at its facility in Tonawanda and that “Padma has put up more turbines than anyone in New York State.”

On the subject of noise complaints from wind turbines, Kasthurirangan said that most of the noise complaints “are not usually backed by actual noise issues.”

“It can make noise when there's a problem with the turbine, but the turbines that we pick will be certified to IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards, and they go through a whole acoustic testing process," she said.

In other action, planners recommended approval of:

  • A revised site plan for exterior changes at 99 Main St., Batavia, an historic building that is being renovated as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
  • A zoning map change from Planned Development to Residential for homes at 145 and 147 Pearl St., Batavia, to enable the placement of a shed at 147 Pearl St. The matter now will go to the City Planning & Development Committee.


County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari announced that a presentation of the Genesee 2050 project, encompassing the county's Comprehensive and Recreation plans, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Old County Courthouse. Citizens can attend in person or via Zoom. Contact Oltramari at 585-815-7901 for more information.

Previously: Planners to review revised site plan for 99 Main St.

5MW solar farm is proposed for West Main Road, Le Roy

By Mike Pettinella


The Genesee County Planning Board has 12 referrals on the agenda – including a site plan review of a proposed 5-megawatt solar system in the Town of Le Roy – for tonight’s 7 o’clock meeting at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road in Batavia.

The board is meeting a day earlier than usual due to Veterans Day on Thursday.

AES Clean Energy, based in Louisville, Colo., is seeking to build the ground-mounted commercial solar array on 38.7 acres of two parcels of land approximately covering 66 acres at 7054 West Main Rd., Le Roy.

The land, owned by Route 5 Storage LLC, care of M.J. Prinzi, is located in an Industrial (I-1) District on the south side of the highway, across from the Keeney Road intersection.

According to submitted documents, the system – consisting of 20,142 modules – will take about four to six months to build after final approvals. It will feature an access road from West Main Road. It also will be classified as a “community” solar farm in that it will provide energy to the existing electric grid and allow local customers to contract for electricity at or below current market rates.

Genesee County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and staff are recommending approval of the project with modifications centering on the applicant following all New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets construction mitigation guidelines and by relocating the driveway and equipment pads from the middle of the field to the end of the field to minimize the impact upon future farming.

Other referrals of note are as follows:

  • A site plan review for a 1,944-square foot (81 by 24) addition to the existing building owned by Gadd Properties (Alexander Equipment) at 3266 Buffalo St., Alexander;
  • A site plan review for the Burning Barrell BBQ restaurant to be operated by Nicholas Rada at 10 East Main St., Corfu;
  • A site plan review and area variance request for Harrington’s Farm Market to replace an existing greenhouse with a new 2,304-square foot (48 by 48) greenhouse on its property at 5282 Clinton St. Rd. in the Town of Stafford;
  • A sign permit request from Pierrepoint Visual Graphics, Inc., of Rochester, to place new signs for a proposed UR Medicine office building at the Gateway II Industrial Park at 7999 Call Parkway in the Town of Batavia.

Photo: Overhead view showing the parcel of land (with blue line around it) earmarked for a 5-megawatt solar system on West Main Road in the Town of Le Roy. West Main Road is along the top and East Bethany Le Roy Road is to the right. Courtesy of Genesee County Planning Department.

EcoVerde Organics rep: Composting facility will support Genesee County's 'goal of ag preservation'

By Mike Pettinella


“Good for your garden, good for your community, good for your planet” – and, in the eyes of Genesee County Planning Board members, good enough for a location on Wright Road in the Town of Alabama.

Planners on Thursday night recommended approval of a site plan for EcoVerde Organics, LLC, of Buffalo, to own and operate a compost facility on a portion of a 27-acre parcel in an Industrial zone at 396 Wright Rd.

The company, which was formed in 2017 by entrepreneur Warren Emblidge Jr., uses the motto above as it promotes environmental and social ecosystem improvement through composting.

EcoVerde Assistant Chief Katy Duggan appeared at the planning board meeting at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“We’re a small company that was started by a local businessman (Emblidge, EcoVerde’s chief) who had been successful (in other ventures) for many years,” Duggan said. “He got the idea of sustainability and the next step was to get some composting going.”

Duggan, in her third year with the company, said EcoVerde had a composting plant in East Aurora but now is focused on this site in the Town of Alabama.

“We work with people, businesses and others in our local community to source our inputs, then make and sell quality soil amendments like compost,” she explained. “Our products improve soil to support plant growth with less chemical fertilizer and less nutrient run-off into waterways to protect our natural environment.

“We look forward to operating in Genesee County where we can support its goal of agricultural preservation.”

She said that a new food scraps law in New York State requires businesses and institutions that generate a certain amount of food scraps to donate usable food and to recycle what’s left.

“So, some of this is in preparation for that,” she said.

A former recycling sustainability coordinator and educator, Duggan developed the Lewiston Art Festival recycling and food waste composting program, and developed food waste collection and waste audit services for commercial customers.

Plans for the Alabama facility are to process source-separated organics, manure and yard waste (specifically food scraps), solid manure/bedding, select food processing waste and crop residue, and leaf and yard waste from municipalities and landscape professionals. Biosolids will not be accepted.

Duggan said activity won’t begin until after final approval from the Town of Alabama Planning Board, which was scheduled to meet this Monday, but has cancelled that session.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has granted EcoVerde approval to operate the compost facility, she said, limiting production to 7,500 cubic yards per year. She said customers will include farmers (organic and market), landscapers, gardeners and homeowners.

“We will start by bringing material into the plant, initially manure and yard waste, and since compost takes three months to make, we plan to start selling it in the spring,” Duggan added.

The planning board’s recommendation of approval is contingent upon EcoVerde obtaining a stormwater permit from the DEC if it disturbs more than one acre of land, and registering with the GLOW Solid Waste Management Committee and reporting the amount of material recovered by the facility to the GLOW Recycling Coordinator.

Planning Board member Tom Schubmehl also requested that Duggan reach out to leaders of the neighboring Tonawanda Seneca Nation to mitigate any odor or other issues caused by prevailing winds. She said that she would be agreeable to that.

In other action, the board recommended approval of:

  • A special use permit to combine two parcels into one Commercial zone to accommodate New York Bus Sales’ new 20,000-plus-square foot school bus service/sales facility at the corner of West Saile Drive and Call Parkway in the Town of Batavia.

Lauren Rodriguez, civil engineer with LaBella Associates, said the facility will cover seven acres, with minimal security lighting and fencing.

One of the board’s concerns was that on-site lighting would not shine directly onto neighboring properties or cause a hazard for motorists.

The project application has been accepted by the Genesee County Economic Development Center,

  • The addition of four storage units to the current seven at West Batavia Storage at 8550 Wortendyke Rd. in the Town of Batavia, with the on-site lighting stipulation.
  • An area variance for Har-Go Farms in Pavilion to construct a 6,300-square foot barn addition in an Agricultural-Residential (AR-1) District.

Photo: Katy Duggan of EcoVerde Organics presents the company's site plan to Genesee County Planning Board members, clockwise from bottom, Laraine Catan, Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, Jill Gould, Richard Richmond II, Legislator John Deleo, Robert Bennett, Eric Biscaro, Tom Schubmehl, Deputy Director Erin Pence. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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

Village of Corfu dining proposals: Bistro at 47-49 West Main is out; pizza shop at 12 East Main is in

By Mike Pettinella

An Akron entrepreneur says he is scrapping his plans to convert an empty building in the Village of Corfu into a bistro restaurant/ice cream shop.

Earlier this month, the Genesee County Planning Board approved, with modifications, Randy Hesior’s site plan to lease space in a vacant building on a 7.2-acre parcel at 47-49 West Main St.

Hesior was looking to put about $15,000 into the facility, and eventually employ eight to 16 people.

Since then, Hesior told The Batavian that the property owner, who lives in Clarence Center, indicated that he was not willing to spend any money to satisfy requirements pertaining to a driveway or to erect a fence shielding the building from neighbors’ homes.

Modifications recommended by the planning board included that the applicant obtain a driveway permit from New York State Department of Transportation for the change of use prior to approval by the Corfu Village Planning Board and to make sure on-site lighting was installed as to not shine directly onto neighboring property or cause a hazard for motorists.

“So, I’m going to have to look for another building someplace else,” he said.

Another dining establishment in the Village of Corfu is moving forward, however, as planners recommended approval, as long as signage complies with zoning regulations, a site plan to operate Home Slice 33 Pizzeria at 12 East Main St.

The first-floor business will offer pizza, wings, subs and fryer foods, with enough space to seat 18 to 20 customers. Takeout and delivery are additional options.

Genesee County planners to review site plans for pizzeria, restaurant/bistro/ice cream shop in the Village of Corfu

By Mike Pettinella

It looks as though the Village of Corfu will be the home of two more eating places before the end of the year.

The agenda of Thursday night’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting includes site plan reviews for a pizzeria at 12 East Main St. and a restaurant/bistro/ice cream shop at 47-49 West Main St.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at County Building 2, 3837 West Main St. Rd.

According to documents submitted to Planning Director Felipe Oltramari:

  • Corfu Mayor Tom Sargent and Darien Town Council Member David Krzemien are teaming up to operate Home Slice 33 Pizzeria in an existing building in the village’s Commercial district.

It will be housed on the first floor, providing enough space for 18 to 20 customers and also will offer takeout and delivery. Menu offerings include pizza, wings, subs and fryer foods.

After about $15,000 in remodeling, the business will employ seven to 10 people.

Planning department recommendation, approval with the modification that any signage complies with the Village's zoning regulations. With this required modification, the proposed restaurant should pose no significant county-wide or inter-community impact.

  • Akron resident Randy Hesior is looking to open Randy Joe’s Bistro by converting an empty building on a 7.2-acre parcel in the Neighborhood Business district into a “warm, welcoming bistro that will serve a variety of foods” – including ice cream.

He, too, after putting in about $15,000 in improvements, will employ eight to 16 people while operating the restaurant, which also will be able to cater small events and host company parties.

Planning department recommendation, approval with the modifications that the applicant obtains a driveway permit from NYS DOT for the change of use prior to approval by the Village Planning Board; installs on-site lighting so as to not shine directly onto neighboring properties or cause a hazard for motorists, and erects signage that complies with the village's zoning regulations.

Darien Mandates SUP for Airbnb Homes

Also, on the agenda are special use permit requests from three existing Airbnb bed and breakfast/tourist residences that have been in operation for quite some time in the Town of Darien.

The homes are Eliza Brooke Farmstead at 2407 Broadway Rd., Happy Harry’s Country Home at 11095 Warner Rd. and Fix Family Country Oasis at 938 Sumner Rd.

Town of Darien Zoning Law requires a special use permit for all short term rentals defined as bed and breakfast/tourist homes (also known as Airbnb or VRBO rentals or listed privately): a one-family dwelling (not necessarily owner-occupied) in which overnight accommodation is provided for not more than eight transient people for profit and may include serving breakfast.

Upon issuance of the SUP, the town’s code enforcement officer will conduct a fire inspection initially and at three year intervals, with an operating permit to be issued upon each fire inspection.

Genesee County planners to consider latest version of Brickhouse Commons plan at Route 5 and 77

By Mike Pettinella


Randy Fancher, president of Fancher Properties of Akron, is returning to the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night for a third time to propose a revised site plan for a mixed-use project on Main Road between Brickhouse Corners Drive and Tim Hortons in the Town of Pembroke.

The latest version has Fancher Properties of Akron, doing business as Brickhouse Commons LLC, constructing a two-story building with 7,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and six market rate apartments on the second floor, along with driveways, parking lots and a six-bay tenant parking garage to the south.

A review of his site plan is on the agenda of tomorrow’s meeting starting at 7 o’clock at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“This is basically the third version considering changes requested by the DOT (NYS Department of Transportation) and issues with wetlands,” Fancher said. “So, this is where we have to start until we hear back from the Army Corps of Engineers on our request for wetland reclassification, which could take up to a year. We didn’t want to wait so we decided to get started here.”

Fancher said that his company will begin construction once all permits are obtained and verbal commitments for tax incentives from the Genesee County Economic Development Center are approved.

“We’re looking to start in the late fall and hope to have the building up about a year from now,” he said.

The project has changed in scope from what Fancher Properties proposed last June – going from a three-story mixed-use building with retail on the first floor and 17 apartments on the top two floors.

In January of this year, the company modified its plan to a two-story mixed-use building along with two buildings housing 12 apartments.

“Last year, we were already to go but then the DOT said that we couldn’t have a driveway onto Route 77,” Fancher said. “We’ve had a few challenges up to this point but we’re working through them.”

Because of the DOT’s concerns, the company moved the location from Route 77 to Main Road (Route 5).

“We’re still on the corner, basically, but instead of building on Route 77, we’re on Route 5,” Fancher said, adding that the venture was delayed because the DOT would not allow a curb cut onto Route 77,

“We have to connect a road from Route 77 over to Brickhouse Corners Road, which is where Yancey’s Fancy is located. There are wetlands there and we’ve applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for reclassification because, right now, the road has a big curve in it,” he said. “Once we get that approval, we can continue on to Phase 2 and Phase 3, which will consist of more retail and more apartments.”

The development’s location is the GCEDC’s Buffalo East Technology Park in the Town of Pembroke’s Interchange District.

Fancher said he and his brother, Jeff, company vice president, plan to reach out to companies such as Starbucks or Mighty Taco to gauge their interest in placing a store at the site.

Other referrals on tomorrow’s planning board agenda include:

-- Downtown design review for a new façade, lighting and signage on one side of the Batavia Tailors & Cleaners building at 33-39 Ellicott St., along with a new rooftop heating and air conditioning unit.

-- Downtown design review for the addition of four wall-mounted canopies, one large structural entrance canopy, new wall paneling and new freestanding signage at Fieldstone Private Wealth, 219 East Main St., at the intersection of Summit Street. The project is part of the New York Main Street grant program administered by the Batavia Development Corp.

-- Downtown design review of the Healthy Living Campus project in the city, with developers seeking approval to remove multiple buildings and construct new ones.

-- Site plan review and sign permit request from Zambito Realtors to convert a dwelling into a new realty office across from Applebee’s on Lewiston Road. The project includes siding, windows, and removing a breezeway to make it into an office with handicap ramp.

-- Site plan review and special use permit in a Commercial district for Alvamar Healthy Foods to use 1,000 square feet on the first floor of the Masonic Temple building at 12 S. Lake Ave. in Bergen for freeze drying, warehousing and shipping of healthy snacks.

Owners Eddie Alvord and Michael Marsocci’s application indicates that Phase 2 would be the addition of retail space in the front area of the building to dispense healthy snack foods with no preservatives.

-- Site plan review for Tamara Parker to reuse an existing storefront at 22 East Main St., Corfu, for a sign and vinyl graphics business to be known as TMP Signs.

-- Special use permit for PCORE Electric, Inc., 135 Gilbert St., Le Roy, to build a 227 square-foot addition for an office.

Photo: Architect's rendering of Brickhouse Commons mixed-use building proposed by Fancher Properties of Akron near the intersection of Route 5 and Route 77 in the Town of Pembroke.

Planners get lesson in Plug Power's green hydrogen production, question county holding water in reserve

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Planning Board members Thursday night, on their way to approving the site plan for the Plug Power Inc., green hydrogen facility at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama, were on the receiving end of an education about the company’s operation from its vice president of project development.

Plug Power, a publicly traded business based in Latham (outside of Albany), is primed to become the first tenant at STAMP – with plans to put up an 8,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building, a 40,000-square-foot electrolyzer building and a 68,000-square-foot compressor building on the Crosby Road tech park.

The company is the world’s largest producer of hydrogen fuel cells that power forklifts and heavy-duty freight and its facility to be located at STAMP will be the largest in North America.

“This is the largest green hydrogen facility in North America by a lot,” Brenor Brophy said. “It actually is the largest green liquid hydrogen facility in the world. So, it is a major step forward in the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

Brophy took planners through the process of taking fresh water and electricity and turning that into hydrogen and oxygen. Plug Power had been making hydrogen cells for the warehouse and logistics industry and, last year, started making its own hydrogen.

“This is a green hydrogen product; fuel that is made from zero-carbon renewable energy,” Brophy said. “This is the hydroelectric energy from Niagara …”

He said Plug Power will harness renewable energy from the new substation that the company is building on the STAMP site – a facility that is large enough to power their entire park.

“We will take about half of that energy for our facility,” he said. “We take fresh water and electricity and we split it into hydrogen and oxygen. The only emission we have from this site is pure oxygen. We take that hydrogen gas and we cool it down to what I call biogenic temperature that turns it into a liquid.”

From there, tanker trucks will transport the liquid hydrogen to Plug Power customers all over the Northeast region.

Brophy said the firm’s customers include Walmart, Kroger’s, Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

He said the plant will produce 45 metric tons of hydrogen per day, with each truck holding about four and a half metric tons.

“So that means there will be approximately 10 trucks per day on average,” he said. “Not every truck is full leaving or (it could be) empty coming back, so it may be 10 to 12 trucks per day, which is quite low.”

Brophy called it a “beautiful site” on 30 acres. He said plans call for the placement of a row of trees along the front to obscure it from the road.

“It is a very important site,” he said. “We are absolutely delighted to be siting it in Western New York as a New York company. This is our first and biggest green hydrogen plant in what will be a national network.”

Planner Tom Schubmehl, who abstained from voting, was prepared with a list of questions about the project that focused on the following:

  • Start-up Date

Brophy said he expects “to finish commissioning” in late 2022 or early 2023.

  • Wastewater

Brophy said there are two components – the sanitary sewer needed for employees on site and discharge of leftover process water.

He said the number of employees on site is not large enough to support the construction of an actual wastewater treatment facility “so we will have a tank system there that will be approved by the DEC that we will have emptied out until such time as the wastewater treatment plant will require construction.”

“As far as what we call the process water … we will have the forced main that will discharge directly into Oak Orchard Creek and will require a permit from the (New York State) DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation).

  • Stormwater

Brophy said a stormwater retention pond is an allowable use in that area.

  • Reconstruction of Crosby Road

This will be done by the Genesee County Economic Development Center – a complete rebuild of the section from Stamp Drive south to the edge of Plug Power’s site. Also, a 12-inch water transmission main will be extended from Route 77 where it currently exists, down Stamp Drive and down Crosby Road to get to the Plug Power site.

  • Tanker Trucks (noting there is parking for 26)

​Brophy said those parked in the staging area will be empty so “when a driver shows up with an empty tanker we will have a full one waiting for them.”

  • Storage Steer

Brophy said that storage unit will hold a week of production.

“It’s a high-resilience network,” he said. “If one goes down, we can support other plants in the network from that. Our customers are folks like Walmart, Kroger or Amazon, and so we can never let that warehouse go down. Amazon can’t go down a week before Christmas so we aim for a really high-resilience network.”

  • Water Usage (noting the facility will use 280,000 gallons per day)

Schubmehl mentioned that Genesee County is calling for residents to conserve water this summer.

Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of operations, said there is capacity coming up the line from Pembroke and County Engineer Tim Hens has “put place markers in for projects and Plug Power’s project has been held in the county water, so to speak, as a placeholder for a couple of years now. So, it has been accounted for and is included in those numbers.”

He added that GCEDC is pursuing another water line from Niagara County that could bring in an additional 1.5 million gallons per day.

“But the 280,000 gallons … that has been reserved in capacity in all of the numbers that Tim has been working with,” he reiterated.

Schubmehl responded that he was puzzled by that strategy.

“I just hope that you understand how difficult that is to know that this is what has been held in reserve while county residents are being told not to water their lawns this week,” he said. “It just seems a little odd.”

County planners take no action as Route 19 resident objects to Town of Le Roy's rezoning proposal

By Mike Pettinella


A Lake Street Road (Route 19) resident has come out against the proposed rezoning of seven parcels of land meant to expand the Le Roy Food & Tech Park, claiming that changing it from Residential to Industrial contradicts the Town of Le Roy’s Comprehensive Plan and will prevent him from “the intended use and enjoyment” of his property.

Eric Baines Jr., speaking at Thursday night’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, said that in November he bought what is known as the Olmsted Manor, a 2,900-square-foot colonial house that is near the 75-acre industrial park on Route 19 and Randall Road owned by the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

He said he did not favor a referral submitted to the planning board by the Town of Le Roy to rezone seven parcels totaling about 185 acres to possibly set the stage for a cheese manufacturer, specifically the Ohio-based Great Lakes Cheese, to build a $500 million plant on land adjacent to the park.

Reportedly, Great Lakes Cheese officials have contacted landowners with purchase offers to expand the park to meet the company’s needs.

“At the time when we did our research, the 2017 published Town Comprehensive Plan said that the current use map did not reflect Industrial zoning as well as the future map does not show Industrial zoning surrounding – they’re both Agricultural,” Raines said. “Given that both maps reflect that, we (he and his girlfriend) made the decision to buy this house.”

Looking to Upgrade the Property

Raines said that “use and enjoyment of our land (14 acres) will be jeopardized by this rezoning as we intend fix up the place.”

“This is an historical house, which we’re proud to own … in an historic district in Le Roy,” he said. “We wanted to grow our own food here and largely be independent. To say we are against the industrialization of the agricultural land behind this is not to just push it behind me and go somewhere else.

“We are opposed to it, in general, as to be reflected by the vegetable garden we put in almost immediately. If anybody goes by on Route 19, I am sure you have seen that the place has not been taken care of over the past 50 years, but it is now because we’re here.”

Raines said his plans for the property include recreational hunting, expanding his garden and putting up bat houses to keep the ecosystem healthy.

“This (rezoning and siting of the cheese factory) will trigger a laundry list of chain events that will prohibit any of what we hope to do,” he said.

Responding to a question from Planning Board Member Eric Biscaro, Raines said his property extends right to the line proposed for the cheese plant. He then brought up issues of smell and noise.

“For a $500 million plant, to say there won’t be noise (is not true),” he said. “The electromagnetic radiation alone coming from this plant is going be astronomical, and not something that we had any intention of being surrounded by.”

He said this action does not seem fair, believing that the comprehensive plan serves as a land use document governed by state law and is good through 2029.

Board Only Looking at Rezoning Referral

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said that last night’s referral only addresses the rezoning change, not the proposed cheese manufacturing plant.

“The planning board is only considering a rezoning request, which can be made with or without a project,” he said. “If it does get rezoned and a project does come to fruition, we will be reviewing all environmental impacts, including odor and noise, lighting, anything you may think of as part of that project, which would be a separate referral.”

Oltramari sought to clarify the zoning procedure, stating that the comprehensive plan and future land use maps serve as “guidance” but do not restrict municipalities or draw specific boundaries for rezoning.

“You have points that are definitely valid,” he said in response to Raines. “It’s just I wouldn’t go as far as saying that because that area is (zoned) Agriculture, that it should stay Agriculture until 2029. In theory, actually, the town board could amend the future land use plan … through a public process … before 2029 and completely overhaul the comprehensive plan in two years or something like that.”

Raines contended that neighbors who own a horse farm would be “stripped of their horse pasture if this goes through,” and mentioned that he heard talk of eminent domain, which is the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.

He also said some of his other neighbors are against rezoning and the potential 480,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

Masse: No Talk of Eminent Domain

Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of Operations, quickly disputed the eminent domain claim, stating that the agency’s board of directors will not participate in that process.

“We have not done it, we have not proposed it, we have never brought it up, and we have never spoken about it,” he said.

Planning Board Member Bob Bennett, referring to eminent domain, noted that GCEDC won’t be the owners of the properties on track to be rezoned.

Contacted this morning, Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz disputed the eminent domain claim – “a private entity can not move forward on eminent domain,” he said – and that to his knowledge, “there has been no resistance whatsoever from landowners who have been approached (by Great Lakes Cheese.”

“I know that some of the neighbors have sold significant property to Great Lakes Cheese and that the Falcone Funeral Home is no part of this since they operate under a special use permit in an R-2 zone,” he said. “In fact, changing to an I-2 zone would give him a sense of security for his business.”

Farnholz also mentioned that Raines has a 12-acre buffer behind his house “that is completely grown in, so he wouldn’t see the project” and that all odor, noise and wastewater issues have to meet New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards.

Le Roy Planners to Meet on Tuesday

The supervisor said that the Le Roy Planning Board will address the issue next Tuesday and that the town board has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for July 8.

As far as the county planning board, it took no action as a motion to approve the rezoning referral died for a lack of second, and a subsequent motion for disapproval did not gain the necessary five votes.

Oltramari said it now goes back to the Town of Le Roy, which can act without a recommendation from county planners.

The planning department had recommended approval since the comprehensive plan adopted by the Town of Le Roy in 2017 identifies this area in its Future Land Use Plan as Agriculture and adjacent to Industrial. Thus, Oltramari wrote, it can be argued that rezoning the property to an industrial use that supports agriculture is consistent with the plan should pose no significant countywide or intercommunity impact.

Earlier in the meeting, Masse said his view was that the town was “trying to be proactive – trying to be ahead a little bit.”

“Obviously, our board approved a purchase and sale agreement for one business (BioWorks Inc., of Victor) at the Le Roy Food & Tech Park that’s existing there – to take 60 of the 75 acres. I think the town is seeing that hopefully will be successful and is trying to be proactive by rezoning some of the other parcels there to help grow that,” he said.

Prospective Company Talking to Landowners

Masse said GCEDC wouldn’t be purchasing the other parcels to be rezoned.

“At this point in time, the companies that have been interested in it have been talking – we put them directly in touch with the property owners,” he said.

He added that BioWorks would be looking at West Bergen Road and Route 19 as entrances and exits.

Bennett mentioned that if the cheese factory was to come in with 500 jobs, “that’s a lot of traffic to come out to West Bergen Road and Route 19.”

“If a company were to locate there, on those back parcels, they would probably come in off of (Route) 19 – that would be the main traffic,” Masse replied. “That would be a shared entrance for our park as well as those back parcels. And that’s going to be driven by the Department of Transportation as well, whether there would be any improvements required there or not.”

Masse said BioWorks is creating 30 jobs but has yet to apply for (tax) incentives.

“Their truck traffic would be like FedEx and UPS delivery trucks,” he said. “It wouldn’t be anything heavy, and from a water standpoint, that particular project plans on recycling all rainwater … and will have very little to no municipal use.”

He added that GCEDC is looking at different options to supply natural gas to the property.

Zoning map at top shows the current zoning, left, and the proposed zoning -- changing the parcels in yellow (Residential) to light purple (Industrial) next to the Le Roy Food & Tech Park.

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