Planning Board Minutes
September 27, 2021
PRESENT: David Paterniti – Chairman James Butler
ABSENT: Diane VanDewark
PRESENT: Attorney Joel Seachrist, Drew Reilly – Wendel Engineering, Adam Rizzo & Nathan Rizzo – Solar Liberty, Dennis Ryan – ECOsponsible, Town of Busti Supervisor Jesse Robbins, Charles Sylvester, Diane Terrano, Kerry Widen, Curt Widen, Jennifer Applebee, Skyler Applebee, Amy Peterson, Vytas Morris, Anastazia Morris, Judy Greyber, Kim Greyber, Cole Smith, Greg Edwards
Chairman David Paterniti called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m. He stated that the Board has finalized a report and recommendation, attached below, on the proposed South Main Street solar project, and asked Attorney Joel Seachrist to read the following resolution:
Town of BUSTI PLANNING Board
September 27, 2021
SL BUSTI, LLC
RECOMMENDATION TO TOWN BOARD
WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 405-48 of the Town of Busti Zoning Code, the Town Board has referred to the Planning Board the application of SL Busti, LLC (“Solar Liberty”) for site plan review and a report and recommendation, and
WHEREAS, the Planning Board has thoroughly reviewed the application, required the applicant to supplement and amend the application as necessary to better comport with the Zoning Code’s requirements for a special use permit, and held a public hearing spread over several dates, all with the assistance of the Town’s consulting engineer, and
WHEREAS, the Planning Board has identified a number of concerns with the proposed project having to do primarily with its visual and aesthetic impact;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT
RESOLVED, the Planning Board hereby adopts and issues to the Town Board the attached “Large-Scale Solar Energy Project Report” dated September 27, 2021, which recommends against the project and further recommends that as part of its SEQRA review of the project the Town Board should issue a Positive Declaration.
Large-Scale Solar Energy Project Report
Town of Busti Planning Board
SL Busti – Main Street Extension
Applicant: Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc.
- Application Description and Type of Solar project: The project is a ground mounted solar panel installation consisting of 28,080 solar panels (3 solar fields), capable of producing 9 MW of power. The project is located on approximately 60 – 90 acres of undeveloped land on one parcel totaling approximately 113 acres at 1255 Main Street Extension in the Town of Busti, Chautauqua County. The arrays are approximately 14 feet high, at maximum tilt. Activities will also include the installation of new electrical equipment, and accessories including concrete pads for equipment and a new gravel access drive.
Per the Town of Busti Solar Energy Systems law, this is a large-scale solar energy project.
- Application Requirements: See the attached application checklist.
The project application materials/requirements appear to be met, except as follows:
- The project appears to abut a County/NYS Ag district and, therefore, should require an Agricultural Data Statement in accordance with AGM Section 305-b. The applicant has prepared the document but has noted that there are no active farms within 500 feet of the site.
- The project also requires County Referral and Referral to the Town of Kiantone in accordance with General Municipal Law §§239-n and 239-nn.
- There are some missing materials (see checklist); the PB/TB to determine need for these materials. New materials were submitted on 7/21/21 and in August (new plan).
- Zoning Analysis: See the application checklist.
The project appears to meet the “bulk” zoning requirements (setbacks, property size, etc.) for a “large” solar energy project and for the other requirements, except as follows: None.
- Other Requirements (SUP and other law requirements): See attached checklist.
The project meets these requirements except as follows: Some new plans/information needed to reflect the new project layout.
- Public and PB Comments
Summary of Public Comments:
- Impact on home valued, land values
- Impact on property tax receipts (as a result of lowered property values)
- Long-term effects (would it be abandoned and unused in future)
- Views of Facility, particularly in light of rural character
- No way to screen views due to topography
- Aesthetics (“metallic ugliness”)
- Incompatibility with neighborhood/ negative impacts to neighborhood
- Incompatibility with Comprehensive Plan / Town’s Vision Statement
- Not allowed under CR zoning (“we urge you to maintain the CR designation”) (application states site is zoned CA)
- Questions about wetlands
- Concern about the gas well on site
- Concern for wildlife, destruction of habitat
- Concern about herbicides potentially seeping into neighboring water wells
- Adverse impacts on nearby residents in Kiantone
- Increase in area temperatures
- Lack of oversight over potential impacts (herbicides into wells or “something else”)
- Skepticism over future decommissioning plan – funds will be insufficient to cover costs
- Need to investigate the landowner re. septic violations, other violations
- Project belongs in “an industrial area, a hidden field or in far less obstructive areas such as along an interstate”
- Solar waste, chemicals, toxic waste, increased temperatures in surrounding area
- Harm to landowners (especially the Greybers)
- Changing demographics of town put agriculture at risk (older owners selling ag lands)
- Video forwarded to Town questions value of solar energy
- Not opposed to solar, but opposed to “industrial” solar
- Request for ‘third-party’ review of the plan to verify their statements
- Busti has history of problem with code enforcement – this project too complex to enforce
- Need to protect prime farmland
- Size of project (40 acres)
- Inadequate means of blocking views (trees dying, will continue to die)
- Concern over longevity of Solar Liberty – who will be in charge in future
- 15-year tax abatement
- “Energy Returned on Energy Invested” (ERoEI) does not make sense based on energy expended on manufacture, transport, install, decommission (cites studies)
- Battery explosions, toxic fires
- Noise from inverters and transformers, destruction of vital soil microbes, Soil compaction, heat island effect
- Town should consider stricter controls (setbacks, tree protection, etc.)
- Town has sole authority to approve or reject
Summary of Planning Board Comments:
- Not good fit for the site
- Too large for the Town
- Too close to road (and residents across the street)
- Character of the area
- Removal of too much vegetation
- Better plantings and layout for screening
- Maintenance of the plantings
- Overall maintenance of the site
- Decommissioning of the site and bond/guarantee for removal
- Drainage concerns
- Impact of fencing on animals in the area
- Gas well concerns
- Maintenance of the access/driveway to the site
- PILOT questions
Unresolved Comments: Character of the area, visual impacts, impacting too much on existing vegetation, impacts to residents in Kiantone, gas well impacts, and site restoration/decommissioning,
- SEQR Issues (Type I SEQR action):
The Town Board conducted a SEQR coordinated review and received the following comments.
See the correspondence from the NYSDEC.
Recommendation: Based on a draft completion of part 2 of the FEAF (TB will make official decision), the part 3 draft analysis and review of the materials submitted by the applicant, the PB has reached the following conclusion concerning SEQR issues. The Part 3 Summary Analysis document indicates that there may be some potentially significant environmental impacts from the proposed project. Based on this, the Planning Board must recommend to the Town Board that a Positive Declaration be issued and that the Planning Board be involved with Scoping and the review of the DEIS.
- Site Plan Review Comments:
The Planning Board still has concerns about the placement of the proposed project on the site and the ability of the site to be screened from surrounding properties.
- Planning Board Report & Recommendation:
The Planning Board based on their review of the project and materials submitted by the applicant, and input from Town residents, other agencies, and the Town’s consultants, makes the following recommendation to the Town Board:
See the attached draft Part 2 and 3 (analysis). The Town Board can use this information in its SEQR decision. Based on the Planning Board’s review, we would recommend a Positive Declaration.
- Large-Scale Solar System SUP Recommendation:
Against: The Planning Board believes that the project will potentially have a significant impact on the environment and recommends a Positive Declaration. The project also has not been shown to meet some of the SUP requirements. The Planning Board also is not ready to approve the site plan for the project until the Town Board makes a SEQR decision.
- Final Recommended Conditions:
The Planning Board will recommend conditions for the Town Board to attach to the final Special Use Permit should the Town Board choose to approve the project. It would be premature to list those conditions here since we anticipate that the Town Board will accept our recommendation to issue a Positive Declaration instead. Once the Environmental Impact Statement is complete, we will finish our site plan review and issue our recommendations for the final project.
James Butler moved to accept the resolution as written, which was duly moved by Robert Whitman.
Upon roll call vote, all aye, carried.
In new business, Dennis Ryan addressed the Board regarding ECOsponsible’s application to construct a large-scale solar system located at 4542 Baker Street Extension. He noted that since the last meeting he attended in May, ECOsponsible has submitted documentation required for solar projects in the Town of Busti to Wendel Engineering for their review.
Mr. Ryan explained there are three project areas, two on the north side of the property, toward Southern Tier Brewery and one on the south side of the property, toward Baker St., which were chosen based on the topography of the land. He noted with fencing and screening of more than 150 feet of trees, the project will not be visible to any of the neighbors. They will be staying more than 100 feet away from the one small stream on the property and will confirm if there any other federal or state wetland areas. The property size is approximately 107 acres. The proposed project will comprise approximately 37.5 acres; the rest of the land will be sustainably managed forest.
Drew Reilly of Wendel Engineering noted the proposed project area is zoned Industrial and is not within a county agricultural district. He reviewed some of the checklist items, including:
Grading Plan – no extensive grading, site will be cleared, and panels installed.
Access Points – Stoneman Circle for the north arrays and Baker St. for the south array.
Landscape Plan – little landscaping proposed, as the project is set back such that the existing vegetation and large trees would screen the arrays. Mr. Ryan confirmed that it is mainly small trees in the project area which would be removed, with the intent to use mulch from these trees as the base underneath the panels.
Janet Briggs asked how many panels there will be. Mr. Ryan replied he does not know the exact number of panels but gave an estimate of 26,000.
James Butler asked the total megawatts. Mr. Ryan stated there are two 5-megawatt projects.
Robert Whitman asked how many acres of trees will be removed. Mr. Ryan responded that approximately 37.5 acres would be cleared, which includes access roads and the area inside the fence.
Chairman Paterniti stated the Planning Board will review the information provided in tonight’s meeting and agreed to set the next meeting for Thursday, October 21, 2021, at 6:00 p.m.
Chairman Paterniti moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:30 p.m.; duly moved by Janet Briggs.
Deputy Town Clerk