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Trousdale Solar

March 17, 2021 - 12:05pm

An Ellicott Street Road farmer’s plan to place a pair of side-by-side community solar arrays on his property received the green light from the Batavia Town Planning Board on Tuesday night, but not before the project developer agreed to concessions pertaining to utility poles and aesthetics.

Toward the end of a 58-minute discussion among planners, Town of Batavia officials and representatives of Cypress Creek Renewables LLC via Zoom videoconferencing, five of the six planning board members on the call voted that the solar farms would cause no or little adverse environmental impact, and also approved the site plans and the required special use permits.

The proposal was presented in June 2019 by Don Partridge, who also is a member of the planning board. He was not allowed to vote on any measures pertaining to the project.

Partridge has contracted with Cypress Creek Renewables to construct two adjacent solar farms at 5117 Ellicott Street Road, southeast of the city limits:

  • A 5-megawatt array on 18.2 acres of a 65-acre parcel of otherwise agricultural land, known as Trousdale Solar I;
  • A 4-megawatt system on 19.6 acres of a 71-acre parcel of otherwise agricultural land, known as Trousdale Solar II.

The planning board tabled the project last month after determining it needed more photos and visual projections of current and future screening of the solar panel arrays.

Additional Screenings, Pole Relocation

Last night, Cypress Creek Renewables representatives Jerry Leone, Nick Hawvermale and attorney Mark Sweeney did present maps of the property, updated to show additional screening (berms and trees) – and what it would look like in five and 10 years. They also reported the relocation of three utility poles owned by CCR about 230 feet into the site, within the fence line.

Currently, the site plan calls for four utility poles owned by National Grid and the three owned by CCR.

While acknowledging CCR’s good faith effort to address the board’s concerns, planning board Member Paul McCullough said he believed that the number of poles could be reduced, calling them “ugly in these projects.”

His colleague, Jonathan Long, agreed, adding that the poles still could be seen from the solar farm’s driveway.

Planners also had hoped that the developers would obtain a letter from National Grid to see if the company could eliminate some of its utility poles, but Leone said the power company indicated it was unable to provide that.

Leone offered to plant more soil berms as “further mitigation -- not 24-feet high, but ground berming to create “more of a fit naturally to the land.”

What About Ground-mounted Enclosures?

At that point, McCullough asked if CCR could replace the utility poles with ground-mounted (transformer boxes). Leone responded by saying that modification would be expensive.

“We would be looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of about a $200,000 delta between what we’re proposing and going to a ground, perhaps a minimum, and that would be per connection,” Leone said.  "It gets to the point where we’re talking about a healthy price tag when we start talking about mounting below grade.”

Planner Steve Tanner noted CCR’s attempt at mitigation, but questioned whether it was enough to enable the board to issue a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review.

The developers again brought up the additional screening on the east side and vegetative buffer in front of neighboring properties, before Leone advanced – "as a last resort” -- the idea of ground-mounted enclosures to replace a pole or two.

McCullough said he would be on board with that.

Hawvermale then reiterated the increased cost to CCR and said he hoped that National Grid could do the same, to some degree, with its poles.

“It does add construction timeline implications that make it a little more difficult for us. That’s something we can look into with National Grid,” he said.

Tanner then suggested that any site plan approval and special use permits issued should include stipulations that the three CCR poles and at least one National Grid pole be replaced with ground-mounted apparatus.

SEQR, Site Plans, Permits Approved

With that in place, planners voted that the project would have no or little environmental impact – thus rendering a “negative declaration” on the combined SEQR.

They then voted separately on the site plans and special use permits for the two arrays, heeding Town Engineer Steve Mountain’s advice to make it contingent upon: town engineering approval; obtaining cost estimates in the case of decommissioning; addressing NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets comments; securing additional screening; and reduction of the utility poles.

Unanimous votes on both solar farms now gives CCR the right to proceed with the project, pending the signing of resolutions that spell out the specifics of what was agreed upon.

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski, thanked all parties upon approval of the referral, adding that “it was mitigated to the best of our ability … and we can’t make everyone happy but we did our best.”

Jasinski opened the meeting by reading a letter dated March 9 from Christopher and Christine Long of 9234 Batavia Stafford Townline Road, expressing “our many concerns of a solar panel project so close in proximity to our home.” The Longs asked Jasinski if she would share the letter with the planning board before voting took place.

Summarizing, the Longs wrote that it was “wholly inappropriate for Partridge to “consistently sell his land to parties directly involved in Town of Batavia building projects while he is serving another seven-year term with the Planning Board … “and is a blatant and obvious conflict of interest.”

Concerns Over Resale Value, Safety

The couple also wrote that the solar farm would decrease the value and resale of its three parcels, totaling 5.4 acres with 1,080 feet of frontage on Batavia Stafford Townline Road, and are concerned for the safety of its family “as the project emerges in what is, essentially, our backyard.”

The Longs also said the project “is in direct conflict” with the Town of Batavia’s mission statement, which is to “protect and promote public health, safety, morals and general welfare for all residents in the Town of Batavia.”

Other reasons for their opposition indicated in the letter include safety of the industrial solar panels, pollution, disruption of the surrounding farmland and displacement of wildlife.

In closing, while reiterating its disagreement with the proposal, the Longs said they “adamantly insist that in addition to the installation of the code-required 8-foot perimeter fence, that a berm and/or several rows of trees be included in the plan and be established between the east side of the project and our home (and the) current trees and vegetation that compose the existing hedgerow should also remain intact.”

Partridge made a brief statement after Jasinski finished reading the letter:

“Relative to the Batavia Stafford Townline (Road), there are at least two properties between any properties on the town line and my property, and there’s no way that anywhere on the Batavia Stafford Townline (Road) you’ll be able to see this project. That’s all I want to say.”

Outdoor Shooting Range on Hold Until April 6

On another front, planners heard briefly from Brandon Lewis, owner of The Firing Pin in Bergen, about his plan to develop an outdoor recreational facility that includes shooting ranges and a drive-in movie theater on a 22-acre parcel at 3269 Harloff Road.

Previously, Lewis presented his proposal to the Genesee County Planning Board, which recommended approval of a special use permit and site plan with modifications pertaining to stormwater pollution mitigation, acquiring the proper permits, and ensuring there is no glare from the movie screen onto the New York State Thruway.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said his office has received numerous phone calls from residents – some positive and some negative – and asked planners to direct all questions in email form to Lang or Mountain.

Jasinski said a site plan review will be placed on the April 6 agenda and voting on the special use permit will take place after a public hearing on April 20.

March 3, 2021 - 1:46pm

The Batavia Town Board Tuesday night tabled action necessary to advance a community solar project on Ellicott Street Road – the pros and cons of which have been dissected and discussed by engineers, developers, planners and neighbors for the past year and a half.

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

One, Trousdale Solar I, is a 5-megawatt array on 18.2 acres of a 65-acre parcel, and the other, Trousdale Solar II, is an adjacent 4-megawatt system on 19.6 acres of a 71-acre parcel of farmland off Route 63, southeast of the city.

Town planners at their meeting via Zoom videoconferencing last night were looking to proclaim a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review, which deals with the projects’ combined effect on the land, and also to approve separate site plans and special use permits for the two tracts.

During the SEQR process, however, Steve Tanner, a planning board member, said it would be wise to get an updated visual impact study as he had concerns over the proposed screening of the layout from neighboring properties.

Cypress Creek representatives Jerry Leone and civil engineer Nick Hawvermale indicated that they had addressed the town’s request to mitigate any visual impacts by moving a portion of screening (trees, etc.) further south, closer to a neighbor’s property.

After hearing Tanner’s request for photos to be taken from the neighbors’ view, Leone asked Town Engineer Steve Mountain for assistance in obtaining access. Mountain said that would be possible, noting that landowners have been accommodating to the town on other projects.

With an eye on making this happen before the board’s next meeting on Feb. 16, Leone said his company is “prepared to move quickly.”

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski brought up tabling everything until the supplemental photo documentation was obtained, prompting Partridge, a planning board member, to advise that he had taken more pictures that day from the border of neighboring fields.

“I don’t know what difference it will matter getting up next to their house another 30 feet to visualize something that will be behind the trees that are on Folger’s (property),” he said. “And we have a presentation where they have the driveway and the trees on that. Now if you go to the other side of Folger’s with that tree line … it’s going to be the same kind of visualization on the knoll behind the Smiths' and the ARC properties.”

A motion to table was presented, however, with Town Building Inspector Dan Lang suggesting to “err on the side of caution” before Tanner reiterated his call for “a complete set of documents that show everything we are asking for” – views with screening and without screening.

Planner Jonathan Long supported that, referring to a question on the SEQR application that points to the solar farm being inconsistent with the character of the natural landscape and surmising that proper screening would mitigate potential issues.

Hawvermale took several minutes to go over the renderings of the two solar farms, making planners aware of the placement and types of screenings and buffers.

When questioned about the number of utility poles on the layout, Leone said that is within National Grid’s “purview” and leaves Cypress Creek little flexibility. Hawvermale did provide specifics, indicating that there will be five utility company poles and three others to be put up by Cypress Creek.

Jasinski said the town will contact National Grid to get information about the number of poles in writing, adding that the power company has permitted a fewer number on other projects.

Planners also asked about glare, with Lang stating that a study came back showing no glare at all on the site. Still, he is requesting further research because that is the first time a report came back with that result.

When voting on the proposal does occur, Partridge will be required to abstain.

In recent weeks, neighbors and others living on Ellicott Street Road have spoken out about Partridge’s plan, citing impacts on the land and property values, and questioning whether two 20-acre side-by-side arrays violate the maximum limit imposed by the Town of Batavia.

Previously: Ellicott Street Road resident challenges Town of Batavia's 20-acre solar limit as nearby project moves forward

December 11, 2020 - 7:22pm

An Ellicott Street Road resident on Thursday night was advised to contact Town of Batavia council members over her objections to proposed side-by-side community solar projects on the property of a neighboring farmer that she said circumvented the town’s zoning regulations.

Speaking at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, Nancy Brach, of 5168 Ellicott Street Road, questioned the panel and Planning Director Felipe Oltramari about the validity of two (approximately) 20-acre solar arrays next to each other on land owned by Donald Partridge at 5117 Ellicott Street Road.

Brach expressed her views in the midst of a 40-minute discussion over the special use permit and area variance referrals to place a 5-megawatt solar farm on 18.2 acres of a 65-acre parcel and a 4-megawatt system on 19.6 acres of a 71-acre parcel. The projects, named Trousdale Solar I and Trousdale Solar II, are being developed for Partridge by Cypress Creek Renewables LLC.

“I understood that there was a 20-acre limit, is that correct?” Brach asked. After Oltramari answered yes, Brach said, “So, we’re putting together two 20-acre parcels, is that correct?”

Oltramari replied that “technically, there are two solar farms; they are side by side, but there are two of them.”

She proceeded to ask if they were owned by the same person and, again, Oltramari responded in the affirmative – the same landowner and the same solar company.

“So, my question is, if there is a 20-acre limit and you allow people to put parcel after parcel together, effectively, you could have 1,000 acres,” she said. “How do we prevent that? This is making a piece of property that doubles the amount of the minimum and yet we’re going ahead with it. What would keep us from having 100 acres, 200 acres, if you just let people split the property in name only?”

Acknowledging that Brach had a “valid point,” Oltramari noted that some municipalities don’t have any size limitations and some have larger than 20 acres, but 20 acres seems to be the minimum, and added that the Town of Batavia was one of the first localities to adopt a solar law.

He then said that New York State provides incentives for these types of solar projects that generate around 5 megawatts of power, before adding that a similar two-in-one type project – earmarked for a more isolated area in the Town of Pembroke – was on the evening’s referral list for a special use permit.

Undeterred, Brach, who was one of three Ellicott Street Road residents who voiced their opposition during the meeting, reiterated, “How to we protect (the 20-acre limitation) because it seems to go against how the law was designed?”

Oltramari then suggested a zoning change or at least a change in the wording would have to come from town officials, and said residents would need to petition their town board before that could happen.

Brach, who hosted a neighborhood meeting with Partridge at her home in June 2019 to convey their concerns, said the ambiguity of the zoning is what has people upset about “having a solar project put in their backyard.”

“If you say 20 acres, then two 20-acre parcels are not 20 acres, it’s 40 acres and it opens up the opportunity for 60 or 80 or 100 acres, and that’s just not honest,” she said.

Planning Board Member Jill Gould then explained that this panel makes recommendations based on whether the applications adhere to town zoning laws, and re-emphasized that complaints by Brach and others should be directed to the Town of Batavia.

Timothy Morrow and Kathy Antonelli, also of Ellicott Street Road, spoke prior to Brach.

Morrow said he wanted to know what chemicals were in the solar panels as he feared that harmful agents could seep into a large aquifer in that area and affect homeowners’ wells.

Jerry Leone, of Rochester, representing Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, said that he would provide Morrow with the findings of the environmental studies already conducted. Later on, it was indicated that the overwhelming majority of solar panels in New York are based on silicon technology (quartz or sand).

Antonelli said the solar arrays will be place “behind my house and diagonally from my property” and asked if the project would decrease the property values in the area.

“And why so close to our homes, with all of the farmland in this area?” she asked. “I don’t want to sit on my back deck and look at a solar farm.”

At the end of the debate, planners approved both solar projects by a 6-1 vote with Robert Houseknecht casting the “no” vote. The measure now goes back to the Batavia Town Planning Board, which is meeting next Tuesday, and one of the projects will also be considered by the Town Zoning Board of Appeals since an area variance is needed because the frontage is less than the minimum requirement.

Recommended modifications include obtaining a stormwater pollution prevention plan and relocating a part of the driveway and equipment pad from the middle of the array to the edge of the field or on existing laneways.

In other action, planners approved:

  • With modifications (stormwater pollution prevention plan and archaeological study), a site plan review for a LandPro sales, storage and maintenance facility at 4554 W. Saile Drive in the Town of Batavia. LandPro is a major dealer of John Deere tractors and equipment.
  • With modifications (see above), a site plan review and area variance for Rochester Regional Health’s four-story, 140,000-square-foot medical office building at 8103 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98), near Call Parkway, in the Town of Batavia. The project will include the installation of a traffic signal on Route 98, connecting Call Parkway with Federal Drive.
  • A special use permit referral from Solar Liberty Energy Systems Inc. of Buffalo for solar farms generating 5.3 megawatts and 6.6 megawatts at 7984 Tesnow Road in the Town of Pembroke. The property is owned by Kreher Brothers LLC of Clarence.
  • A site plan review to relocate Precious Paws to an existing commercial building at 10571 Main St., Alexander. The applicant, Alicia Brenkus, will be converting a former pizza shop to her dog grooming business.
December 9, 2020 - 9:48am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, LandPro, Rochester Regional Health, Trousdale Solar.

Genesee County Planning Board members are in for a busy night on Thursday as 14 project referrals are on their monthly meeting agenda.

The meeting will take place via Zoom videoconferencing at 7 o’clock.

Four of the referrals -- including a site plan review for a new state-of-the-art LandPro sales, storage and maintenance facility in the Town of Batavia -- are coming to the board following initial action taken by the Town of Batavia Planning Board last week.

LandPro, dealer of John Deere tractors and equipment, is lined up to build what Paul Williams, operations manager/north, says will be the company’s “main hub for technology” at 4554 W. Saile Drive – on a 14-acre parcel just east of Vantage Equipment at the corner of Call Parkway.

“This will be a full-servicing John Deere dealership and that will include agriculture as we know it, turf, all turf products and a limited, what we call a compact construction equipment (facility),” said Williams, who is in charge of half of LandPro’s 20 stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. “Additionally, it will be our main hub for technology – our integrated solutions as we call it – GPS (Global Positioning System) and all of the fancy technology that is in our equipment.”

Williams said technology has made its way to the forefront over the past 15 to 20 years.

“It continues to grow and continues to be an extremely critical piece of our business,” he said. “The machines are now talking to us, they’re talking to John Deere at the factory and we’re getting early warning signs of failures so we can be on site before things fail.”

He said the tractors, by utilizing GPS, have the capability to be within an inch of accuracy as they drive down the rows of corn, for example.

“The technology is very, very high at this point, and it continues to grow. That’s why this facility will not only be state-of-the art and our largest shop, but it will also house our high-technology product division,” he said, adding that LandPro is partnering with Stihl and Honda products for handheld supplies and generators.

When asked if the new location would replace the John Deere stores in Oakfield and Alexander, Williams said that “eventually, they probably will (close) but we want to make sure that we can still serve the capacity of the customers in that geography … before we close those locations.”

“So, we’ve got a little bit of work to do – but that is the long-term plan,” he said.

Williams said that 60 to 65 employees will work out of the new building, which is expected to be completed in the spring or summer of 2022, with current workers in Oakfield and Alexander relocating to West Saile Drive.

He didn’t disclose the amount of investment into the facility, which shows 13,000 square feet for retail sales, 5,000 square feet for parts storage and 28,000 square feet for maintenance, but without question, it is a multimillion dollar venture.

LandPro will seek tax credits through the Genesee County Economic Development Center and grants through National Grid, Williams said.

Other highlights of Thursday’s Genesee County Planning Board meeting:

  • A site plan review and area variance for a four-story, 140,000-square-foot medical office building proposed by Rochester Regional Health at 8103 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98), near Call Parkway, in the Town of Batavia. The facility will have 90,000 square feet for office space and 63 of its 360 parking spaces in a lower-level parking garage.
  • Special use permits and an area variance for a pair of solar projects named Trousdale Solar I and Trousdale Solar II at 5117 Ellicott Street Road, Batavia. The first phase is a 5-megawatt array covering 18 acres of a 65-acre parcel while the second phase is a 4-megawatt system covering 19.6 acres on a 71-acre parcel. Pending recommendation of approval (with modifications) from county planners, it will go to a public hearing conducted by the Town of Batavia Planning Board.
  • A special use permit for two ground mounted commercial solar systems, one generating 5.3 megawatts and the other generating 6.6 megawatts, at 7984 Tesnow Road in the Town of Pembroke. The applicant, Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc., of Buffalo, wishes to place the solar array on property owned by Kreher Brothers LLC of Clarence.
  • A site plan review to change the use from professional office space and art studio to a medical office for acupuncture and physical therapy at 10 Lake St. (Route 19) in the Village of Bergen. Documents submitted by applicants David and Anna Marie Barclay reveal a plan to use about half of the building’s lower level for their clinic, which will have four employees.
  • A site plan review to relocate Precious Paws to an existing commercial building at 10571 Main St., Alexander. Plans submitted by the applicant, Alicia Brenkus, call for slight modifications to convert a former pizza shop to the owner/operated dog grooming business.

Previously: Rochester Regional Health plans to build four-story medical office building in the Town of Batavia

December 1, 2020 - 9:41pm

rrh_building.jpg

rrh2_building_2.jpg

Rochester Regional Health is looking to extend its reach in Genesee County through the construction of a four-story, 140,000-square-foot office building at 8103 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98), across the road from Federal Drive and near Call Parkway, in the Town of Batavia.

"This campus is the latest step in Rochester Regional Health’s plan to expand access to care," said Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, which is part of the RRH system. "Over the past few years, we have opened similar multi-specialty campuses in Irondequoit, Henrietta, Webster/Penfield, and Geneva, with another campus scheduled to open in Geneseo.” 

Ireland took part in the Town of Batavia Planning Board's Zoom videoconference meeting tonight.

The project was introduced to planners by Andrew Kosa, principal associate with Clark Patterson Lee engineering firm in Rochester.

Kosa said that 90,000 square feet will be allotted for office space and that 360 parking spaces will be available – with 63 of them in a first-floor parking garage.

The applicant will need approval of its site plan along with an area variance related to the height of the building and a negative declaration on a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) to proceed with the project.

Kosa was joined on the call by Michael Owen, vice president, Healthcare Construction for RRH; Michelle Trott of CPL principal for the project, and Thomas Bock, civil engineer and lead engineer for the site plan.

“We’ve completed a traffic study … showing mitigation for the turn lanes out of the entrance driveway, and also made submission to the New York State Department of Transportation on Nov. 12 to get its preliminary review of the plan and traffic study,” Kosa added.

Town planners voted to seek lead agency for the SEQR, and advised that the project will have to be referred to the Genesee County Planning Board for its recommendation and then to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals (for the area variance).

Town Engineer Steve Mountain mentioned that this is a tax-exempt project that offers much in the way of economic benefit to the municipality.

“Through the SEQR process we have looked at the economic impacts and the best cost benefits … and there are a lot of benefits to the project,” he said.

Ireland said it is a prime opportunity for RRH to create additional space for medical purposes.

“There’s a substantial need for that in our community, and really to consolidate some of the medical specialty practices as well as grow medical specialties in the community that don’t exist today,” he said. "(This is) bringing services under one area and easily accessible to the surrounding region, which will draw patients into the area as well as bringing needed providers into the area."

Ireland added that RHH will provide information about the specific services as the project progresses.

Solar Project Moves Forward

Town planners also approved seeking lead agency status for a SEQR on a two-phase community solar project on property owned by Don Partridge at 5117 Ellicott Street Road.

Partridge, a member of the planning board, recused himself on all matters connected to the venture, which is proceeding as Trousdale Solar I and Trousdale Solar II.

The first phase is a 5-megawatt array covering 20 acres of a 65-acre parcel while the second phase is a 4-megawatt system covering 20 acres on a 71-acre parcel, said Jerry Leone of Rochester, representing Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, project developer.

Leone said that area residents will be able to purchase electricity as a result of the system at a better price than what they get through National Grid.

“They don’t have to be connected to it physically – it would be delivered to you through National Grid in a similar way that you purchase electricity now, and that electricity would be offered at a discount from what you currently pay,” he advised.

He said that the National Grid service along the road is capable of handling the project, a bifacial system that generates power on both the front and back of the solar panels.

“The panels will be no higher than 12 feet once installed … and there are no wetlands and some tree removal,” Leone said. “We’re not seeking any variances and have followed appropriate setbacks as required.”

Leone also offered that his company has a partnership with the Genesee County Economic Development Center and a partnership with Cornell University for pollinator species – “plantings and grass that are friendly to bees and the like.”

Planners will need to schedule a public hearing on the application, likely several weeks away, after it goes before the Genesee County Planning Board on Dec. 10.

LandPro to Construct Facility

Andrew Schmieder of Alexander, project designer, reported the intention of LandPro – a John Deere sales and service company – to build a sales, storage and maintenance facility at 4554 W. Saile Drive, near the Volvo Rents equipment building.

He said the LandPro has committed to 13,000 square feet of retail sales area, 5,000 square feet for parts storage, and a 28,000 square feet to perform maintenance.

“They primarily will be servicing turf and agricultural equipment,” he said, adding that he doesn’t anticipate a lot of traffic coming in and out of the area.

The applicant is seeking approval of its site plan, which also will be reviewed by county planners on Dec. 10.

Project Manager David Ciurzynski of Attica said LandPro will be seeking tax abatements from the GCEDC. Paul Williams of Baldwinsville, operations manager for LandPro, also was on the Zoom call.

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Architect renderings courtesy of Genesee County Planning Department. Top photos, two views of Rochester Regional Health building; bottom photo, LandPro building. 

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