Planning Board Minutes
July 28, 2021
PRESENT: David Paterniti – Chairman James Butler
Abesnt: Diane VanDewark
PRESENT: Attorney Joel Seachrist, Drew Reilly – Wendel Engineering, Michael Prinzi – Solar Liberty, Nathan Rizzo – Solar Liberty, Supervisor Jesse Robbins, Diane Terrano, Kim Greyber, Judy Greyber, and Curtis Widen.
Chairman David Paterniti called the meeting to order at 6:35 p.m. and asked Nathan Rizzo to give an update on the proposed solar project on S. Main Street.
Mr. Rizzo stated the following documents were submitted to the Town of Busti and Wendel Engineering: National Grid – Coordinate Electric System Interconnect Review (12/13/19 & 1/8/20), Erosion Control Plan, Busti Fire Department letter approving modifications to site layout and access roads, Solar Liberty Busti Acoustic Assessment, Solar Liberty Decommissioning Plan, Solar Liberty LEAF, Solar Liberty Operations and Maintenance, Solar Liberty Permit Tracker, Solar Liberty letter stating according to Chautauqua County Maps and Town of Busti Assessor, there are no operating farms within 500 feet of the proposed project, Solar Liberty Electric System Site Plan, and Solar Liberty Solar Electric System Scope of Work.
Mr. Rizzo informed the Planning Board of the Full Assessment Review updates including Part 1 – the visual aspect; Solar Liberty would like input from the Planning Board regarding the type of trees to be used. They see this as a community project. Mr. Rizzo stated there is plenty of room from the roadside to the solar array for the type of tree that will block the arrays from the neighbor’s view.
Engineering Consultant, Drew Reilly, reviewed the following documents:
Large-Scale Solar energy systems Checklist created from Town Law
- 405-48.1 Solar energy systems.
PROJECT: SOLAR LIBERTY (NOTE; 3 PROJECTS TOTALING 9 MW)
(a) The requirements of this section shall apply to all solar energy systems installed or modified after the effective date of the local law by which it was adopted, excluding general maintenance and repair.
(b) All solar energy systems shall be designed, erected, and installed or modified in accordance with all applicable codes, regulations and industry standards as referenced in the New York State Building Code and the Town Code as well as the National Electrical Code (NEC), National Fire Protection Code 70 (NFPA 70), and local regulations.
(c) Under SEQRA regulations, actions are classified as Type I, Type II, or Unlisted actions. Type II actions are exempt from review and include actions such as the construction, expansion, or placement of minor or accessory structures. The Town of Busti considers building-integrated solar components and small-scale systems to be Type II actions and therefore exempt from all SEQRA requirements, including the submission of an EAF (environmental assessment form). Large-scale systems and solar energy production facilities that meet thresholds contained in the SEQRA regulations and are considered more likely than others to have a significant adverse impact shall be considered Type I actions. However, the need for a complete environmental impact statement (EIS) shall be determined by the permitting board on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the significance of the potential adverse environmental impact.
SEQR Type: _Type I action____________________________
If Type I, Coordinated Review authorized/completed: Started 5/10/21 (TB -Lead Agency)- Completed_
Solar as principal use.
- Large-scale solar systems are permitted by the issuance of a special use permit by the Town Board within the Industrial (I), Conservation-Agricultural (C-A), and CAMP Districts, subject to the requirements set forth in this section.
Zoning District: Conservation Agriculture_
(b) Application process.
 Every application for a large-scale system within the Town of Busti shall be made to the Town Board and shall be approved by a majority vote thereof.
 Prior to Town Board review of the application it may refer said application to the Town Planning Board for site plan review, report and recommendation of approval or disapproval.
Referred to PB: January 2021__
Planning Board issues report/recommendation: _____________________________
 The Town Board shall hold a public hearing upon 10 days’ notice duly posted and published in the official newspaper of the Town and on the Town bulletin board, before granting the special use permit.
Public Hearing Noticed/Held: ________________/_______________
(c) Special use permit application requirements. Every application for a special use permit under this section shall contain the following information:
 Verification of utility notification. Foreseeable infrastructure upgrades shall be documented and submitted. Off-grid systems are exempt from this requirement.
Verification submitted: 3 contracts submitted
Infrastructure Upgrades: No future infrastructure upgrades shown?
 Name, address, and contact information of the applicant, property owner(s) and agent submitting the proposed project application.
Submitted: Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc., 6500 Sheridan Drive, Buffalo, NY 14221
 If the property of the proposed project is to be leased, legal consent among all parties, specifying the use(s) of the land for the duration of the project, including easements and other agreements.
Application includes agreement (Standardized Acknowledgement of Property Owner Consent Form and Standard Site Control Certification Form noting Signed option agreement to lease or purchase the property). No easements noted.
 Plans and drawings of the solar energy system signed by a professional engineer or architect registered in New York State showing the proposed layout of the entire solar energy system along with a description of all components, whether on site or off-site, existing vegetation, and proposed clearing and grading of all sites involved.)
Provided Site Plan; Erosion and Sediment Control Plan; Site Details (fence, gates, plantings, gravel access road); (Landscape Plan missing – just shown on Erosion and Sediment Control Plan?). Real grading plan not submitted – applicant indicates little grading proposed.
 Equipment specification sheets for all photovoltaic panels, significant components, mounting systems and invertors that are to be installed.
Drawings provided for 3 Line Diagram Array 1(two pages), Array 2 (one page) and Array 3 (two pages); Labels and markings, equipment sheets provided for major components
 The location, type, and intensity of any lighting on the site.
Per applicant, no artificial lighting proposed.
 Plan for clearing and/or grading the site.
Erosion and sediment control plan provided. (No clear grading shown though).
 A map showing the soil types underlying the site of the proposed solar energy system and a narrative of the applicant’s plan to avoid disturbing prime farmland.
Soil Type: Busti Silt Loam: BsB – Prime if drained; BsC – Not prime, but Statewide Importance
Fremont Silt Loam: FmA – Prime if drained; FmB – Not prime, but Statewide Importance
No narrative provided. Applicant states the landowner offered land at no cost and no farmers were interested.
 A stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) as per NYS DEC requirements to detail stormwater runoff management and erosion control plans for the site will need to be completed by the applicant prior to construction.
SWPPP dated December 2020 provided
Provide date when accepted: (Not accepted yet – see engineering comments)
 A property operation and maintenance plan describing continuing photovoltaic maintenance and property upkeep, such as mowing, trimming, etc., to ensure the property does not become a safety hazard.
Operations and Maintenance Plan submitted. Addresses System-wide maintenance; panel maintenance; Inverter maintenance; component testing; ground-mount project maintenance; racking maintenance; cleaning requirements; does not address property maintenance. Revised Operations and Maintenance Plan submitted, addresses property maintenance.
Accepted: _ (Not accepted yet)
 Decommissioning plan. To ensure the proper removal of large-scale systems, the decommissioning plan shall include details regarding the removal of all infrastructures, including the removal of concrete to a depth of four feet, and the remediation of soil and vegetation back to its original state prior to construction, unless otherwise permitted. A cost estimate detailing the projected cost of executing the decommissioning plan shall be prepared by a professional engineer or contractor. Cost estimates shall take inflation into account. In the case of a lease, the cost of decommissioning shall be borne by the entity or corporation that is leasing the property in question and not the landowner. The plan shall include a description of the form of surety the applicant intends to use.
Decommissioning Plan: Two-page summary provided: Does this meet Town requirements? Decommissioning has metric measurements and references to provinces, should be modified to typical United States terms of measurements and language.
Accepted: _ (Not accepted yet)
Cost Estimate: ___Provided (not accepted – includes recycle value)
Form of Surety: ___ Not provided (Town attorney and TB to determine)
 The Town may require the applicant to fund an escrow account to cover the amount by which the Town’s costs to review the application exceed the application fees. The uses for which the funds may be used include, but are not limited to, private consultation and engineering fees or other extraordinary expenses incurred by the Town in connection with the application.
Escrow Account established: _Per applicant, Town is not requiring escrow account______________
Special use permit standards.
 All large-scale solar systems or solar farms shall adhere to all applicable New York State Building Codes.
Building inspector to verify compliance
 A minimum parcel size of 10 acres is required for large scale-solar systems or solar farms.
Size of Parcel: Array envelope – 29.1 acres per site plan (60 acre project size in EAF); size of total parcel not shown but stated as 113 acres
***Areas inconsistent between plan set and SWPPP
 Underground requirements. All on-site utility lines shall be placed underground to the extent feasible and as permitted by the serving utility, with the exception of the main service connection at the utility company right-of-way and any new interconnection equipment, including without limitation any poles, with new easements and right-of-way.
Underground, then above ground/new pole to connection. No easements indicated.
 Vehicular paths. Vehicular paths within the site shall be designed to minimize the extent of impervious materials and soil compaction and to give sufficient access for emergency vehicles. The main access road into the facility shall be at least 20 feet wide with at least 13 feet of clearance to accommodate emergency and other large vehicles. There shall be a second point of ingress and egress to the facility to be used in case of emergency.
Type and location of access: single gravel access roadway – no secondary point of emergency ingress/ egress
Dimensions of main access road: 20 feet wide; amount of clearance not shown
Sign-off from Emergency Service providers: Undated letter from Busti Fire Department provided. Per applicant, fire chief confirmed approval (and reaffirmed – see e-mail/letter).
[a] No signage or graphic content shall be displayed on the solar energy systems except the manufacturer’s name, equipment specification information, safety information, and twenty-four-hour emergency contact information. Said information shall be depicted within an area no more than eight square feet.
Sign will be mounted on gate with street address and emergency contact information provided.
[b] As required by National Electric Code (NEC), disconnect and other emergency shutoff information shall be clearly displayed on a light reflective surface. A clearly visible warning sign concerning voltage shall be placed at the base of all pad-mounted transformers and substations.
Plan sheet on “Labels and Markings” depicts warning labels
 Development and operation of solar energy systems shall not have a significant adverse impact on fish, wildlife, or plant species or their critical habitats, or other significant habitats identified by the Town of Busti or other federal or state regulatory agencies. Applicants shall describe how the proposed large-scale solar energy system or solar farm shall avoid or mitigate adverse impacts to these resources. Lands which have the highest ecological values as evidenced by large, contiguous areas of forest, undisturbed drainage areas, wetlands, prime soils, or NYS DEC identified critical habitats or rare plant and animal populations shall be avoided.
Documentation/Reports: See FEAF – additional documentation requested
 There shall be a minimum 100-foot buffer between any component of the large-scale solar energy system or solar farm and the parcel boundary line, with the width determined by the Town Board after analysis of site conditions and adjacent land uses.
Minimum 100 foot buffer not depicted, but appears to be provided.
Town Board requirement based on site conditions: ________________________________________
 Any site containing a large-scale solar energy system or solar farm shall be enclosed by perimeter fencing of chain link or other similar and suitable type of fencing to restrict unauthorized access at a height of at least seven feet, including barbed wire. The fencing and the system may be further screened by any landscaping needed to avoid adverse aesthetic impacts.
Perimeter fence provided. Applicant confirmed, seven feet in height with no barbed wire.
Vegetative screening of fence provided on property frontage and southern edge of Array 1. Proposed screening may be inadequate.
 A locked gate at the intersection of the access way and public road may be required to obstruct entry by unauthorized vehicles. Such gate must be located entirely upon the lot and not on the public right-of-way.
Locking gate provided
 Previously cleared or disturbed areas are preferred locations for solar panel arrays.
Existing Condition of site: Site Plan indicates 20.39 acres requiring tree clearing; EAF and aerial images indicate a mixture of trees and meadows/grassland to be removed. Not a preferred location.
 Native grasses, vegetation, or geo-fabric with crusher run and no topsoil or other configuration, as determined by the Town Board shall be maintained below the solar arrays.
Site plan states that native plantings and vegetation will be maintained on site.
[a] The solar energy system, including any proposed on-site or off-site infrastructure, shall be located and screened in such a way as to avoid or minimize visual impacts as viewed from:
[i] Publicly dedicated roads and highways;
Vegetative screening of fence provided on property frontage and southern edge of Array 1. Screening/landscaping may not be adequate.
[ii] Existing residential dwellings located within 500 feet of the boundaries of the site on which the solar energy system is located;
Dimensions to adjoining properties not shown, but residential property to east and north appear to be within 500 feet (homes to the north appear to be greater than 500 feet away); Vegetative screening consisting of evergreens provided to screen properties to east; overhead transmission line located between site and property to the north.
[iii] A berm, landscape screen, or other opaque enclosure, or any combination thereof acceptable to the Town capable of fully screening the site shall be provided.
Type and location of screening: evergreens (American arborvitae) and deciduous trees (American Hornbeam). May not meet the requirement.
***Species of screening not identified on site plan but shown on Erosion and Sediment Control Plan.
[b] The screening requirements set forth in this section shall only be required if the Town Board determines that screening is necessary.
Screening waived: _Not waived____________
 The design, construction, operation, and maintenance of any solar energy system shall prevent the misdirection and/or reflection of solar rays onto neighboring properties, public roads, and public parks in excess of that which already exists to the fullest extent possible. In addition, all structures and devices used to support solar collectors or solar panels shall be placed and arranged such that reflected solar radiation or glare shall not be directed onto adjacent buildings, properties or roadways and shall be nonreflective and/or painted a subtle or earth-tone color to aid in blending the facility into the existing environment.
Information on glare: Glare Analysis provided. States that use of vegetative screening will provide a glare screen. Eight locations analyzed.
 All transmission lines and wiring with a solar energy system shall be buried and include necessary encasements in accordance with the National Electric Code and Town of Busti requirements. The Town Board may waive this requirement if sufficient engineering data is submitted by the applicant to demonstrate that underground transmission lines are not feasible or practical. The applicant is required to show locations of all proposed overhead and underground electric utility lines, including substations and junction boxes and other electrical components for the project on the site plan. All transmission lines and electrical wiring shall be in compliance with the utility company’s requirements for interconnection.
Underground lines proposed: On -site, but lines into site will be above grade
 Artificial lighting of solar energy systems shall be limited to lighting required for safety and operational purposes and shall be shielded from all neighboring properties and public roads and shall be in compliance with the Town of Busti Site Plan Regulations.
Lighting proposed: None proposed
 Any signage used to advertise the solar energy facility shall be in accordance with the Town of Busti Zoning Code. The manufacturers or installer’s identification and appropriate warning signage shall be posted at the site and clearly visible At least one sign shall be maintained at the entrance to the facility showing an emergency contact number. No trespassing or warning signs shall be posted at appropriate intervals along the perimeter fencing.
Signage: only signage shown is hazard labels. Sign on gate with street address and emergency contact information.
 The average height of the solar panel array shall not exceed 10 feet.
Height of panels: Dimensions of panels: 79.3 inches by 39.4 inches by 1.38 inches. Need height at maximum tilt.
 Site disturbance, including but not limited to, grading, soil removal, excavation, soil compaction, and tree removal in connection with the installation of a large-scale solar energy system or solar farm shall be minimized to the extent practicable.
Extent of tree clearing stated as 20.39 acres. For this site, is this minimized?
***Did not see Grading/Drainage plan
The Town Board recognizes that no regulation can anticipate every creative plan that may be devised, which, though not in strict compliance with the provisions of this article, nevertheless, is not objectionable. Accordingly, the Town Board is hereby empowered to grant relief to an applicant from the strict application of this article where the applicant provides sufficient grounds for a finding that the proposal comports as much as feasible with the spirit and letter of this article and, though not in strict compliance therewith, remains aesthetically pleasing, protects neighboring properties, and preserves property values within the Town of Busti.
Relief Granted on: ________________________________________________________________
Post Construction Requirements: (Make conditions of SUP)
 Following construction of a large-scale solar energy system or solar farm, all disturbed areas where soil has been exposed shall be reseeded with grass and/or planted with low-level vegetation capable of preventing soil erosion and airborne dust.
 Solar permits and site plan approvals granted for large-scale solar energy systems or solar farms shall be assignable or transferable to future landowners of that system on the approved parcel so long as they are in full compliance with this article and all conditions, and the Town Clerk is notified of the property transfer at least 30 days prior thereto.
 Any post-construction changes or alterations to the large-scale solar energy system or solar farm shall be done by amendment to the solar permit only and subject to the requirements of this section.
 After completion of a large-scale solar energy system or solar farm, the applicant shall provide a post-construction certification from a professional engineer registered in New York State that the project complies with applicable codes and industry practices and has been constructed and is operating according to the design plans. The applicant shall further provide certification from the utility that the facility has been inspected and connected.
(e) Abandonment and decommission of large-scale solar energy systems or solar farms.
 Large-scale solar energy systems or solar farms which have not been in active and continuous service for a period of one year shall be removed at the owner’s or operator’s expense. Decommissioning shall include removal of all energy facilities, structures and equipment Including fencing and any subsurface wires and footings from the parcel.
 Full restoration of the parcel is required unless restoration is unnecessary because the parcel is to be put into active agricultural use or approved for other development in accordance with the Town of Busti Zoning Code within that twelve-month period.
 All safety hazards created by the installation and operation of the solar energy system shall be eliminated and the site restored to its preexisting condition within six months of the removal of the large-scale solar energy system or solar farm.
 A surety bond or its equivalent shall be required to be kept in escrow by the Town of Busti to ensure satisfaction of the above. Prior to approval of any application for a large-scale solar energy system, the Town Board shall establish the amount of such surety, which may be in the form of escrowed funds, bonds or. otherwise, but it is the intention of this provision to ensure that the Town has sufficient funds available to remove the installations and restore landscaping consistent herewith, if the applicant fails to comply with its decommissioning obligations.
(6) Solar storage batteries.
(a) If solar storage batteries are included as part of the solar energy collection system, they must be placed in a secure container or enclosure meeting the requirements of the New York State Building Code. All solar storage batteries, their maintenance, placement, and location shall also comply with all applicable rules and regulations as promulgated by New York State Building Code and the National Electric Code.
(b) When batteries are no longer in use, they shall be disposed of in accordance with the laws of the State of New York and any applicable federal or local disposal rules or regulations.
(a) Any violation of any provisions of this section shall be punishable by penalty or a term of imprisonment as prescribed in Section 268 of the Town Law of the State of New York.
(b) Notwithstanding the above, the Town Board of the Town of Busti hereby reserves the right to proceed to enforce the provisions of this section by civil action, injunction, and any other remedy afforded to it by the laws of the State of New York or the United States.
SOLAR PROJECT REVIEW – ENGINEERING CHECKLIST
|Project Name:||Busti 1 Solar|
|Address:||1255 S. Main Street Ext., Jamestown|
|Developer/Engineer/SWPPP:||Solar Liberty / Whitman / Passero Associates|
|Date:||7/22/21 – Initial Review|
- Alta / Topographic Survey
☐ Easements and Parcel Ownership
☐ Stamped by NYS Licensed Surveyor
- Site Plan
☒ Property lines
☒ Access Road
☐ Locations of turn-arounds meet Fire Dept. approval
☒ Gate entry
☒ Perimeter fence
☒ Utility poles
☒ Solar arrays, transformer locations
☐ Wetlands (E&S Plan shows delineated wetlands)
☐ Setback dimensions (from property lines to arrays, fence)
☐ Stamped by NYS PE
- Erosion & Sediment Control Plan
☒ Sequence of Construction
☒ Temporary control measures
☒ Permanent control measures, if needed
☒ Temporary Vegetation Seed Mix
☒ Limits of Disturbance (see comments below)
- Interconnection Plan (Not in plan set, found sheet PV-S1 which is based on old layout; needs to be updated)
☒ New pole locations
☒ Locations of above and underground lines
☒ Table showing voltage, number of arrays, interconnection information
- Grading & Drainage Plan
☐ Existing and proposed contours (Existing contours shown on E&SC Plan)
☐ Existing and proposed drainage features
☐ Access Road profile, if required
- Site Details
☒ Perimeter Fence (Inconsistent between sheets C-300 and PV-S1)
☒ Access Road (material, section, dimensions)
☒ Gate entry
☐ Solar Array
☒ Temporary construction entrance
☐ Drainage details
☒ Erosion & Sediment control details
- Landscape/Screening Plan
☒ Trees / vegetation to be cleared (Shown on E&SC Plan; need separate Landscape Plan)
☐ Vegetation/turf to be planted under solar arrays
☒ Proposed screening vegetation – species, layout (Shown on E&SC Plan; need separate Landscape Plan)
☒ Landscaping/planting details (some provided in Site Details, C-300)
SWPPP (Based on old layout; needs to be updated)
☐ Prepared in accordance with requirements in General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity
☒ Notice of Intent (NOI)
☐ CRIS Letter of No Impact
☐ MS4 signoff, if required (N/A)
☐ Pre-Post Water Quantity calculations
☐ Water Quality Calculations (WQv & RRv)
☐ Phasing Plan if over 5 acres to be disturbed at one time
☐ SPDES requirement on array spacings and requirement of a stone filter
☐ Stamped by NYS PE
- No ALTA/Topo Survey drawing provided
- No Grading/Drainage Plan provided
- No Landscape/Screening Plan provided (vegetative screening areas, plant schedule shown on E&SC Plan)
- SWPPP claims incorrectly that limit of disturbance for the site is 0.9 acres. No water quality/quantity calculations were provided. Key components missing from SWPPP (existing watershed info, routing of runoff, calcs)
- Need clarification to the size of each solar array
- Need clarification in SWPPP of amount of tree clearing and limit of disturbance areas. Clarify how trees will be removed
- PE stamp only on Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, not on other plans or SWPPP
and the SEQR – Full Environmental Assessment Form.
Part 1 was completed and update by the applicant, Part 2 is a checklist to be completed by the town and identify things that could affect the environment. Then Part 3 is based on review of Part 1 of the FEAF, an informal completion of Part 2 of the FEAF, the Planning Board offers the following impacts that may be moderate to large impacts:
Impact on Land:
- The project could be in an area of high groundwater; the FEAF question is blank.
- The project may result in increased erosion.
Discussion of impact: The applicant has submitted an Erosion and sediment control plan, and we are assuming some high groundwater conditions (no specific information submitted).
Impact on Surface and Ground Waters:
- Construction of this project has the potential to impact surface water quantity and quality due to stormwater runoff. Impacts include:
- Creation of turbidity in a waterbody.
- May cause erosion that may lead to siltation in receiving water bodies.
- May affect downstream water quality
- The project site area contains wetlands.
- The project may include the application of pesticides that may impact groundwaters.
Discussion of impact: The applicant has submitted an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, information on wetlands, and has stated that they will not be using herbicides or pesticides.
Impact on Plants and Animals
- Per the FEAF, the project site does not have any T&E species.
- The project involves the removal of 20+ acres of woods.
- The project involves the removal of 27+ acres of meadows/grasslands.
Discussion of impact:
Impact on Agricultural Resources
- The site is not within a County/State Agricultural District but has been farmed in the recent past.
- The site appears to abut an Ag District and could impact that adjoining farmland.
- The project may limit access to Ag lands
- The project involves the removal of 27+ acres of former farmland, and may impact agricultural land management systems (reported tiling).
Discussion of impact: The site is adjacent to a County/State Ag district and the applicant has completed an Ag Data statement that indicates no adjacent farming.
Impact on Historic and Archeological Resources:
- The site appears to be in an archeologically sensitive area (per the EAF Mapper).
Discussion of impact: The applicant has received a letter of no impact from NYSOPRHP.
Impact on Transportation:
- The project may have construction related impacts.
Discussion of impact:
Impact on Noise, Odor, and Light
- The project may produce sound above established noise regulations.
- The project may result in light (glare) onto adjoining sites.
Discussion of impact: The applicant has submitted noise and glare information.
Impact on Public Health
- The project may impact a gas well on the property.
Discussion of impact:
Consistency with Community Plans:
- The Proposed project is in sharp contrast to the surrounding land uses.
- The Project has not yet been shown to be in accordance with the Town’s zoning code (Special Use permit requirements for large scale solar).
Discussion of impact: The applicant has stated that the project is in accordance with the Town’s zoning and therefore is in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan.
Consistency with Community Character:
- The proposed project is not consistent with the architectural scale and character of the area.
- The proposed project will alter the essential character of the area.
- The project will alter the natural landscape of the area.
Mr. Reilly recommended moving forward the Town of Busti establish important vistas and habitats for solar future projects on a map of the town. He stated the ultimate responsibility of the Planning Board is to establish a report along with recommendations to be presented to the Town Board, with reasoning for the recommendations. In addition, the report should include conditions of a Special Use Permit, if granted, required by the law.
The checklists have recognized some areas of concerns that are still outstanding, one being the completion of the entire SWPPP.
The following items were other areas of concerns that were identified with the project:
- The need for a visualization with the proposed screening with changes in the location of the system (discussion followed)
- Was moving the project due to primarily the aesthetics of the project? Solar Liberty responded that it was due to wetland and perspective visual aesthetics. Discussion followed regarding how moving the project has created a bigger impact on the three residences across the road from the project. Mr. Rizzo stated he would speak to his engineer regarding moving the project but noted that they have to stay at least 100 feet from the transmission lines.
- The height of the array – the tallest point of the proposed project is 9 feet and the lowest is 3 feet.
- The access road – is there any intension of circumnavigating the whole project or just the stub going in. Mr. Rizzo stated the stub will be the only access, there is not much operational reason to have an access road around the whole project. Mr. Prinzi stated Solar Liberty could address the concern of access to the whole system in case of an emergency in their Emergency Response Plan.
Chairman Paterniti stated the Planning Board is to look at the plan as a whole plan and there will be a list of stipulations if the project moves forward, if the stipulations can be met then the project goes to the Town Board for their review. The Planning Board is trying to get a handle on what Solar Liberty is proposing to do, where they are wanted to do it, and that it does meet into the law; then merge it all together and see how it fits.
Mr. Reilly stated that due to the size of this project the Planning Board does have a say in it. Their process is to look at the project, evaluate the reasoning of the project, and determine how it fits within the law. The Planning Board should review the checklists and reports prior to making any recommendation, including the public comment and concern. However, property value is not an issue that can be dealt with. In past meetings there was a public concern of the impact the project would have on agriculture. The project is not in an agricultural district, but it does come within 500 feet of the project. The applicant was asked to put an agricultural data statement together in which they identify any farmers within 500 feet of the project, then send notice to those farmers regarding the project and its potential impact. After contacting the Assessor and the county map it was determined there are no active farms within 500 feet of the project, making it close to determining that the project will not have any agricultural impact. The property itself has not been farmed for over 5 years. There was a question about the property owned by Michelle McIntyre and if it is officially located in a designated ag district. The law requires underground wiring however there will have to be some above ground wires to tie into the power company. No lighting has been proposed.
Board member, Janet Briggs, asked if there were any repercussions of having the gas well sitting in the middle of the project site. Solar Liberty is trying to get sign off from the DEC stating that there are no issues with the site and the gas well. A letter stating that the well is no issue will be required before the project can move forward. Solar Liberty contacted the owner of the gas well and followed his recommendation for servicing the gas well.
Mr. Reilly reiterated that according to the law no herbicides or pesticides can be used for the removal of vegetation. There will be physical means of removal of growth. The proposed project and permit should specify transportation and road use during construction; identify if a road use permit would be required.
The last two items on the FEAF Part 3 are “Consistency with the Community Plans” and “Consistency with Community Character”. It is obvious that the proposed project is unique to this area, including the size and the purpose. The Planning Board should ask has the applicant done enough in accordance with the law, does it fit in the best as possible into the community character.
Town Supervisor Robbins asked if the setbacks on this proposed project are typical of other solar projects that Mr. Reilly has worked with. Mr. Reilly stated they are a little on the small size, he has seen them vary from 100 feet up to 1,500 feet. He suggests the town look at the law after the first project and make adjustments from the things that were learned with the original project.
Board member Jim Butler stated aesthetics are a huge point to consider and its impact on the people. Any home located above 6 feet trees will have their view impacted. He would like to see what Solar Liberty could do to reduce the impact on these homes. Solar prices are dropping because of the increase of solar projects, how is that going to affect the town in case that the project would be abandoned.
Board member Janet Briggs asked how many similar projects are live that Solar Liberty is involved in. Mr. Rizzo stated over 3,000 including residential. Solar Liberty has around 40 Large Scale projects in development at this time and built about 40 that are up and running. Board member Bob Whitman stated he does not believe this project fits into the character of the neighborhood and that there are other areas that would be a better location.
Board member Linda Anderson asked how many of the Large-Scale projects are located in residential areas. Mr. Prinzi stated most are located in a residential area of some sort, the projects are based on Utility Infrastructure and Zoning Districts. He stated this project had several influences such as utility infrastructure, environmental impacts, and zoning laws to make it a good candidate for the project. They do a lot of research prior to choosing a final sight. The design is by code.
Mr. Reilly noted most communities that have written solar laws had not envisioned the actual size of the projects. He stated there are four tiers of solar projects: 1. Roof tops. 2. Back yard. 3. The size the municipalities imagined – somewhere between 5 and 10 acres. 4. Projects that are larger than what municipalities imagined (50 – 100 acres or more). He recommends a municipality write some regulation about the size of the “larger” project and to be very restrictive of where such projects are permitted. He is working with four municipalities that after receiving several applications have established moratoriums on Large-Scale solar projects, they never envisioned the number and size of these projects. He recommends, prior to amending the current law, the town contact NYSERDA regarding Large-Scale projects in the community. They will look at the community, identify where the lines are and the capacity of the lines, outline where these projects could go, look at the town zoning code, and at the environmental impact. The town should identify unique characteristics that are significant that they want addressed in the solar law.
He asked the board if they had enough information on the current project and ready to put that information in a report with a recommendation to the Town Board. Chairman Paterniti stated the board was not ready to submit a report and needed to review the new information before finalizing the report to the Town Board.
The board agreed to set the next meeting for Tuesday, August 31, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Janet Briggs moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:15 p.m.; duly moved by Linda Anderson.
Darlene H. Nygren