The Batavia Town Planning Board -- not satisfied with the answers they received regarding screening from a neighboring couple’s home – on Tuesday night tabled for a second time a proposal to install a ground-mounted solar system off R. Stephen Hawley Drive, across from Genesee Community College.
Batavia Solar LLC is looking to acquire a special use permit to construct the 1.65-megawatt system on vacant land at 99 Med Tech Drive, owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp., which has an office in the nearby Med Tech building.
Town planners requested Kaelyn Roche and Jim Taravella, project representatives, to provide one-, five- and 10-year simulations of how the property will look with adequate screenings, such as trees and berms, to obscure the solar panels from the sight of Robert and Michelle Wood, who live at 8244 Batavia Stafford Townline Road.
This is what the board had asked for during an April 20 site plan review and special use permit request consideration, when it tabled the proposal until this week’s meeting. Apparently, the information provided on Tuesday is still insufficient.
Roche, project development manager with YSG Solar in New York City, said that she spoke to Michelle Wood and reported that “we basically came to an agreement that we would work with her down the road and determine what works best for her.”
Taravella, an engineer with LaBella Associates, said that the plan is to plant 15 white spruce trees behind the Wood property, noting that the couple’s garage would also serve as a shield from the solar panels.
“As we near construction we can work with them if they want something other than white spruce,” he said.
During the ensuing discussion, planner Paul Marchese asked if the Woods were given the option to have berms placed on the site.
“I told them they could do whatever they wanted,” Roche replied.
Previously, during a Feb. 2 public hearing, Michelle Wood specifically requested berms:
“We really would like a berm put along the back of it – it protects us and our house. We’re OK and in favor of a solar farm there. We would prefer a solar farm versus a cement industrial building there, so we don’t have a real problem with it. We would just like for them to come to us with what their ideas are and what they’re planning to do.”
After Taravella pointed out that additional screening would be placed along the road to obscure it from traffic and that he would work to keep utility poles to a minimum (a planning board priority), Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski asked if it could be passed contingent upon Town Engineer Steve Mountain’s final review and approval.
Mountain and planner Jonathan Long brought up the need for visualizations – what the site would look like down the road, warning that it would be best to make sure everyone is on the same page before getting started.
All six planners at the meeting agreed, prompting Donald Partridge to recommend tabling the referral once again.
“I would like to see this tabled; I’m not ready to vote on it. I’d like to be able to talk to the Woods myself,” he said.
At that point, the board voted unanimously to table it and put it on the next agenda (May 18) as long as Taravella has enough time to provide the computer renderings requested.
The proposal calls for the installation of about 4,500 modules on the 7.95-acre parcel, of which 5.63 acres will be fenced in. Other aspects of the project include an access road with a 13- by 20-foot equipment pad and a 6 foot high chain-link fence around the entire layout.
In other action, the board approved a special use permit for a drive-thru for the Chipotle restaurant to be put into the existing commercial building at 4222 Veterans Memorial Drive – in space formerly occupied by Metro Mattress.
Mountain said the drive-thru on the northwest side of the building would allow room for the stacking of five cars.
Matt Mahaney, town zoning ordinance compliance officer, said all building and zoning requirements have been met.