August 1, 2022
A regular meeting of the Town Board of the Town of Busti was held on Monday, August 1, 2022 at 6:45 p.m., at the Town of Busti, Town Administration Building, 125 Chautauqua Avenue, Lakewood, New York, with the following members present:
Supervisor Jesse M. Robbins
Councilman Jim Andrews
Councilman Doug Brown
Councilman Paul Gustafson
Councilman Todd Hanson
Supervisor Robbins called the meeting to order with the salute to the flag and a moment of silence was observed. Supervisor Robbins asked those present to remember the family of Mick Johnson who passed away last week.
Present at the meeting in person: Highway Superintendent Greg Johnson, Lakewood Busti Police Chief Chris DePonceau, Busti Fire Chief Matt Stafford, Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Swanson, Attorney Joel Seachrist, Andy Ohl, Victoria Devereaux, Lyn Nagel, Eugene Archer, Andy Dorler, Dennis Ryan – Busti Solar Project, Nathan Rizzo – Solar Liberty, Joey Archer, Charlie Stafford, Michael Nygren, Mike Higbee, Rosemary Higbee, Shirley Ecker, Tom Peterson, Warren & Diane VanDewark, Danielle Thor, Tina Clark, Jamie Gustafson, Alisha Briggs, Kelly Thornton, Rick & Barb Nygren, LeeAnn Sunderlin, Greg Edwards, Adam Rizzo – Solar Liberty, and Paul Luroie – Solar Liberty.
Tina Clark, town resident, is following up on the status of the town establishing regulations for short term rentals such as AirBnBs. She is concerned the property adjacent to her home is potentially going to be used as an AirBnB. Councilman Brown stated he attended a New York Planning Federation webinar on July 21, 2022. The presenter was Harrison Freer, Town of Queensbury Councilman, who spoke regarding “Short Term Rentals”. Councilman Brown also noted the Village of Lakewood has formed a committee to develop regulations for “Short Term Rentals” and has passed a moratorium until the new regulations are passed. He spoke with Mayor Holcomb who said the town could have a board member sit in with the meetings. The Town Board will continue to discuss the subject.
Town Clerk Darlene Nygren reported her office has sold 772 transfer stickers to date, no one will be permitted to use the transfer station without a current sticker, effective today. Clerk Nygren noted NYS hunting licenses went on sale today.
LBPD Chief DePonceau reported from 7/11 through 8/1 the department has handled 573 incidents. There were 138 business checks, 13 check of well-being, 35 property checks, 12 shoplifting complaints, 34 vehicle stops, and 34 warrants served or answered. Chief DePonceau noted the speed trailer has been used quite a bit this past month, the community is encouraged to notify the department if they have any speed control concerns and they will move the trailer to that area.
Highway Superintendent Greg Johnson reported the department is wrapping up blacktop and did their oil and stone on Kortright and Orr Street, there are a couple more areas to oil and stone. The new employee started today. The millings still need to be done on Vukote.
Busti Fire Chief Matt Stafford reported 50 incidents for the month of July including 33 EMS, 10 Fire, 4MVA, and 3 Service Calls; there are 265 incidents year to date compared to 257 last year. The department has completed their physicals for the year. Councilman Gustafson asked if the department could break down the number of times they report to a call in the city, Chief Stafford said he would begin doing that next month.
Attorney Seachrist reported he and CEO Swanson will be meeting to discuss the Cottage Park maintenance issues, the town has until August 15th to respond to the DEC on the Floodplain audit, and he would like to meet with the board on one other matter.
Code Enforcement Officer, Jeff Swanson, reported the Chautauqua County tax auction has closed which should reduce the number of calls he’s been receiving about the various properties. CEO Swanson stated he emailed the new FEMA regulations for the floodplain areas, to the board. He believes the town will need to create a form that includes all the information unless he is able to find a municipality that has already created one, DEC does not have a form to meet the FEMA regulations. CEO Swanson believes the state should offer a training course for the new regulations. He took his laptop and scanner to Eagle Zip to get the scanner set up on the laptop. He is hoping that he will be able to work with Williamson Law now that the tax sale is done and when the floodplain audit response is complete. He will call Williamson Law to learn how to upload pictures and documents to the program. Councilman Hanson asked Attorney Seachrist what the liability to the town would be if we asked the resident to complete a form with the required information for FEMA; Mr. Seachrist stated he is not aware of any local municipality that has been enforcing the floodplain regulations. He recommended the town create a simple application that the applicant would complete and issue a permit based on their information.
Supervisor Robbins will contact Don McCord regarding where he is with the draft of the new Zoning Code.
Clerk Nygren stated JMI is hoping to begin with the remediation in the courtroom the last week in August.
Supervisor Robbins noted there was a Public Hearing on July 11, 2022 on Solar Liberty’s application to construct and operate a 10 megawatt “solar farm” at 1192 Orr Street, however due to the number of residents present at tonight’s meeting he would like to give them an opportunity to speak.
Residents who reside on Mead Road expressed their concern how the system will affect the visual aspect of their property, the possibility of erosion on the hill, if the system would create any pollution issues, and the construction process. Councilman Hanson stated the Local Law permitting Large Scale Solar Systems does not permit any pesticides to be used on the property where a system would be located. Councilman Hanson asked one resident who was concerned about the view of the system from her home what her address was. Lyn Nagel stated she lived at 3584 Mead Road. Other residents present were also concerned about the view of the system, the construction process, hoping to get more information regarding the project, and were interested in what the benefit to the area residents would be. Supervisor Robbins read the following statement from Kay and Jay Sirianni sent via email to Town Clerk Nygren:
“We are sending this email stating our opposition to the solar project on Orr Street. At this time, we are mainly concerned with the effects on the loss of habitat, aesthetic effects of the solar panels, effect on property values, and construction concerns on Orr Street. We are currently out of town and can not make the meeting tonight.”
Kay and Jay Sirianni
1159 Orr Street
The Sirianni’s home is located on Orr Street across from the proposed Solar System.
Mike Higbee stated he was there with his mother, Rosemary; his father was not able to be at the meeting tonight due to his health. The Higbees live at 1119 Orr Street, which is located across the road from the upper portion of the proposed Solar System. Mr. Higbee stated he and his parents have voiced their concern for the past few meetings and continue to be concerned about the loss of habitat and the view from their home. He stated that it has been said the land where the proposed solar system will be located is not farmable, however it currently has crops on it. He feels the esthetics of the Town of Busti are not solar at this point and continues to be concerned about the loss of habitat, the view, the removal of trees, erosion on the hill, the fire hazard, and the fire department’s accessibility to the system. Because of this being something new to our area, Mr. Higbee has been researching the affects of similar systems to other communities and have been told there is about a 20% success rate for energy efficiency, he believes that value should be higher making it a benefit to everyone in the community. He and his parents continue to be concerned about the resale value of their property along with the construction process on Orr Street due to the narrow bridge and curve on the hill.
Residents were curious if the project is approved would they receive notice when the construction begins and the construction vehicle traffic on the road.
Councilman Brown asked Solar Liberty representatives what the advantage to the neighbors would be with the proposed project. Adam Rizzo stated there would be a couple of advantages: 1. Solar Liberty would be paying “payment in lieu of taxes” which is a special plan that they will pay taxes to the town, the county, and the school district. They will be paying additional taxes on the solar system. There was discussion of what that meant. Councilman Hanson stated it would be a combined tax on the land and the system. 2. Solar Liberty would establish a “Host Agreement” with the town and would be paying a specified amount to the town for allowing the project to be located in the town. 3. Solar Liberty participates in what is called a “Community Solar Project” where residents can choose to participate in the project, and they have the potential of 10% in their electric bills if they use National Grid.
Nathan Rizzo stated Solar Liberty put together a visual assessment of the property, which showed views from different locations of the property. There will be a minor visual impact on the Southeast side of the property, which will be about a 100-foot strip and would show about one row of the solar panels. They have worked with the town to develop vegetative screening which they will feel will block any views of the system on both Southwestern Drive and Orr Street. They also have agreed that part of the proposed permit would include a condition for evaluating the screening in a year and determine if additional screening is needed. If additional screening is required Solar Liberty will work with the town to plant additional screening up in those locations. Solar Liberty has generated a Glare Analysis of all the crossroads and adjacent properties, there is no concern for glare with the solar panels. The modules that will be installed are designed to absorb as sunlight as possible and will have an antireflective coating to reduce any glare. They use FAA aviation software and tools to complete the glare analysis. From an erosion perspective, they have Erosion Sediment Control (ESC) plan which addresses mainly the construction phase of the project. A silt sock will be installed around the areas that the construction of the project is slopping away from which should prevent any erosion during that time period. Once the system is constructed there will be vegetation under the panels which will control any erosion. Ms. Sunderland inquired about the height of the system. Mr. Rizzo stated the lower edge will be 3 feet and the back end will be 9 feet. They will be facing south and will be in an area that is sloping away from Orr Street. Solar Liberty has discussed with the board regarding any locations that would require vegetation screening to keep any visual sight of the system. With the topography, the vegetation, and orientation of the modules there will be one row that is about 100 feet long which will be visible without any vegetation. The screening is buffered and will include staggered evergreen and the tree themselves can be as tall as they need to be to block the view of the panels. Councilman Hanson noted the pictures of the system from Orr Street are from road level. He asked if the residents on Orr Street will see the system from their actual home which is elevated from the road. Mr. Rizzo stated they will not see the majority of the system itself, there is the 100 feet gap in the Southwest corner where the vegetative screening will not block the view. Councilman Hanson asked if their intent was, that no matter the time of year, the system would not be seen from Orr Street or Southwestern Drive. Mr. Rizzo stated that was correct. Mrs. Nagle asked if there has been any assessment of the view of the system from Mead Road where her home is located, she stated that currently she has a beautiful view of that whole hillside. Mr. Rizzo stated, from a sight perspective they are not covering the whole hillside but rather only 600 feet from the Orr Street. Mrs. Thor stated that where she is located on Mead Road, she can hear the sound of the farm equipment being used on the hill and on adjacent property. She asked if there would be a sound or buzzing that would be carried through the valley and up to her home. Mr. Rizzo stated that a Sound Analysis was also completed. There will be three equipment pads that will be located throughout the facility and housing inverters which transform the PC power the modules produce into AC which is used by the grid and transformers which are quite quiet. This process will create a sound about 62 decibels, once you get about 200 feet away from that equipment the decibels drop to about 25 which is equal to the sound of wilderness, with the position of the system there really shouldn’t be any sound heard from the system itself.
Ms. Sunderlund inquired how long the construction process would be. Mr. Rizzo stated the first phase of construction includes driving the posts in the ground which will be the loudest part of construction and will last about 4 weeks. The remaining part of construction will be done with hand tools and should not create much noise. There will be truck traffic during the first 2 to 3 months of construction. He anticipates construction to begin in the spring of 2023. She asked the board if the bridge off of Southwestern Drive on Orr Street would be able to handle the weight of the trucks and the equipment being brought in. This is a county bridge; the county should be contacted regarding the weight limit. Supervisor Robbins stated the roads should be bonded and back to the condition they were in prior to when construction starts. Mr. Rizzo stated the largest equipment that would be transported is the transformers which are between 1 to 2 tons and the concrete trucks for the concrete equipment pads. Joey Archer asked what would surround the system and if it would allow wildlife to move in and out of the area. Mr. Rizzo stated the system will be surrounded by 7-foot-high chain-link fence with either a 4-to-5-inch gap at the base or every 20 feet will have a carved-out hole in the fence to allow small wildlife to go in and out of the system area. Deer would be able to get over the fence in any system. Mrs. Thor asked how the Solar System would affect the value of their homes and property. According to a case study that Solar Liberty has done using an assessor for a municipality near Batavia, Mr. Rizzo stated the value actually increases. Mr. Rizzo continued explaining that once the system is constructed the system area is maintained approximately 3 to 5 times per year. Mr. Rizzo stated the structure itself is of metal material, they panels themselves are made of a silicon. The modules are warranted for 25 years with an actual lifespan of 35 to 40 years. Solar Liberty will be responsible for the removal of the system when it is no longer usable. The town will require them to have a Decommissioning Bond that would cover the cost if anything were to happen to the system that would require it to be removed. If the system is not working for one year it would be required to be removed. The system includes materials such as steel, aluminum, glass, copper, and silicone sand; all these are recyclable. Currently there are no recycling facilities for solar systems but with the growing number solar systems being constructed the recycling facilities will be constructed. Charlie Stafford inquired about the possibility of snow build up. Mr. Rizzo stated this system is fixed built and will not move with the sun. The modules are made of glass and with the slant gravity will naturally cause the snow to slide off the panels. Mr. Rizzo stated that Solar Liberty has been in business since 2003; started by him and his brother, Nathan. They grew up in Jamestown and they want to be good neighbors to the residents of Busti. Mrs. Gustafson inquired about the decommissioning and if it is prefunded and what the triggers were for decommissioning. Attorney Seachrist noted a Decommissioning Plan would be developed between the town and Solar Liberty, typically the money is prefunded, and every year Solar Liberty will be required to ensure the bond is equal to the cost. The trigger for decommissioning is typically one year of nonoperational. This plan is currently written in town code and will be part of the agreed Decommissioning Plan. Code Enforcement Officer asked if there would be an automatic disconnect near the road for emergency services if the system is not accessible due to snow or other situations. Councilman Hanson stated the systems are designed for the overcurrent protection will drop it out in the case of a fire, so it will be protected. The only thing to burn would be the transformers and some of the wiring.
Attorney Seachrist stated the town and Solar Liberty still need to agree upon a Community Host Agreement before the county gets involved with the pilot, and a Decommissioning Plan; a referral must be submitted to the County Planning Department (239-N), part 3 of the SEQR completed, Solar Liberty will still need to apply to the IDA for the Pilot Program. Mrs. Thor inquired who will make the final decision or has the decision been made. She wasn’t sure if the residents would be voting or if it was just the board. Supervisor Robbins stated it would be a Town Board decision. Councilman Gustafson stated the board was elected to represent the residents. Councilman Hanson reviewed the application process: 1. The application is presented to the Town Board 2. The Code Enforcement Officer reviews it and refers the application to the Planning Board when it is complete. 3. The Planning Board reviews it in detail and the applicant is required to pay for an outside engineer who reviews all the documents and shares their findings with the Planning Board. 4. The Planning Board then makes a recommendation to the Town Board. There was one application that didn’t receive the Planning Boards recommendation and one that did. The Planning Board did submit a recommendation for this project but with certain restrictions. 5. The Town Board’s job is then to address the restrictions and the concerns of the town residents before making the final decision.
Supervisor Robbins noted Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance has requested the Town of Busti’s intent for renewing their membership for 2022-23. The membership dues are $2,000. Supervisor Robbins noted the Town of Busti has received funding from the Alliance to assist with the Herbicide application to the lake, which included half the cost this year and 100 % of the cost for the past two years. The Alliance also was a huge support with the Swales Project over the past few year in which the town was granted $200,000 +.
Supervisor Robbins moved the following resolution which was duly moved by Councilman Hanson:
RESOLVED, the Town of Busti renew their membership with Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance in the amount of $2,000.
Upon roll call vote,
Supervisor Robbins – aye
Coucilman Brown – aye
Councilman Andrews – abstain
Councilman Hanson – aye
Councilman Gustafson – aye
Dennis Ryan, Busti Solar Project, wanted to share an update of how the project is moving forward. They have hired a local company to be the engineer and procurement of construction company; they are using a Western New York company to create the jobs and make sure the jobs with this solar project are offered to local people. Mr. Ryan reminded the board and others there will be a job fair this fall; they have another solar project in Frewsburg and would like to have the two towns in partnership to get the opportunity for jobs first to the local communities. They are in the process of connecting to the grid and finalizing things with their customers. The negative is the interest rate increases and the limited supply chain. Supervisor Robbins stated that Mr. Ryan was the owner of the Busti Solar Project, that will be located on Baker Street in the Industrial Park. Mr. Ryan noted that after looking at the area of the project more closely, measuring the project area, and the fact that solar panels are becoming more efficient, they are looking to keep the majority of the project closer to Southern Tier Brewing and the Stoneman Park. This would any issues of views of the project and keeping the actual activity away from the residents who were most sensitive of the project. He is hoping to begin construction of the project in the new year, if not next spring. The biggest factor determining when the project will begin is the delivery of the solar panels. Attorney Seachrist Mr. Ryan was able to share who the local company was that they hired. Mr. Ryan stated it was a company named Stark who owns a company named Antaras which a solar company and they are a project company. They have the actual engineering, and all the hard stuff will be done by two companies. They will be hiring locally to do the installation of the project, with the intent to keep these people hired for two years or more working on the various solar projects in the area.
Supervisor Robbins introduced Any Ohl. Mr. Ohl is a property owner of 32-acre lot located on Hoag Road which is land locked. The Town of Busti and Village of Lakewood jointly own property in front of his property. He would to be granted an easement to access his property or to purchase a 50-foot strip of land equal to 1.7 acres along to construct a pull-off and have a walking trail or an ATV trail. Attorney Seachrist clarified that Mr. Ohl has no intention of constructing anything on the said property but using it only for a walk-in trail, he is aware of the wetlands and the restrictions that are within that area without a DEC permit. Attorney Seachrist stated conveying an outright title would be much better for the town and village. Mr. Ohl had previously talked to the Village of Lakewood Trustees and was told to talk to the Town Board regarding the matter.
Councilman Hanson moved the following resolution which was duly moved by Councilman Gustafson:
RESOLVED, with the approval of the Village of Lakewood, the Town of Busti pursue advertising for bids for the sale of a portion of lots located on Hoag Road known as Section 401.00 Block 1 Lots 46 & 47 and owned jointly with the Village of Lakewood. The portion of land to be sold would be 1,524 feet along the southern border of both lots x 50 feet which is approximately 1.75 acres along the southern border.
Upon roll call vote, all aye, carried.
Councilman Hanson noted, for full disclosure, after the Town of Busti Town Board approved the Special Use Permit for the Busti Solar Project, Mr. Ryan contracted with the company that Mr. Hanson works for who also owns a company that actually does solar and battery work. Therefore, anything Mr. Ryan brings to the board for approval Councilman Hanson will have to abstain from the vote due to the fact that he works with the company who employs Mr. Hanson.
Councilman Brown attended a webinar with Chautauqua County Humane Society. The CCHS shared that they are in a crisis with an overabundance of housing stray dogs. They announced they will be voiding all contracts they have with municipalities in 30 days due to the crisis and reorganizing the holding center for stray dogs. This will put the responsibilities to have a shelter or have a contract with a shelter to house stray dogs. They will offer Primary Contract with a select number of municipalities, the Town of Ellicott will be the first to be offered the contract due to the fact they are in that town. The remaining municipalities will be decided by distance and various other criteria. Discussion followed regarding the future care of sheltering stray dogs picked up in the town.
Kelly Thornton stated she is licensed and owns a municipal shelter in Sherman and services Sherman, Mina, Clymer, and French Creek. She is going to also contract with Ripley and Mayville. She explained New York State Ag and Market’s regulations for sheltering and adopting out a stray dog. She contacted CCHS to verify if they would back her up if she reaches her limit of dogs and was told that was where the Secondary Contract would come into play. Discussion followed regarding the possibility of contracting with Ms. Thornton during this 30-day period until the town knew if they were one of the municipalities being offered a Primary Contract with CCHS. Town Clerk Nygren not CCHS had emailed her Ag and Markets regulations to shelter stray dogs and had forwarded those to the town board earlier today. Ms. Thornton stated she has signed contracts with the municipalities she mentioned. She has a shelter lease and a shelter agreement and also requires a copy of the town’s insurance policy to ensure that the town is responsible for any payment for damages caused by a dog from their town. Clerk Nygren noted that she was told by CCHS today that they hope to have designated the municipalities being offer a Primary Contract within the next week or so. Discussion followed regarding the possibility of Chelsea Edmunds having a temporary shelter which would require DEC approval along with approval from the homeowner and the Village of Lakewood.
Supervisor Robbins moved the following resolution which was duly moved by Councilman Andrews:
RESOLVED, to authorize Supervisor Robbins to sign a contract with Kelly Thornton as a temporary shelter for a term of six months or if CCHS offers the town a Primary Contract.
Upon roll call vote, all aye, carried.
Councilman Gustafson moved the following resolution which was duly moved by Councilman Brown:
RESOLVED, Supervisor Robbins be authorized to sign a contract with Chelsea Edmunds for the service of a dog shelter upon the approval from Ag and Markets, the Village of Lakewood, and the home owner and the Town of Busti pay the Dog Control Officer(s) a $20 stipend per month for the use of their personal phones for Town of Busti dog control purposes.
Upon roll call vote,
Supervisor Robbins, nay
Councilman Brown, aye
Councilman Andrews, aye
Councilman Hanson, aye
Councilman Gustafson, aye
Councilman Brown introduced Alisha Briggs from the Village of Mayville. Ms. Briggs will trap stray or feral cats with a property owner’s permission. Her goal is to trap, vaccinate, neuter/spade, and release the cats. Councilman Brown distributed a model Community Cat Ordinance to the board for their review and consideration. Discussion followed regarding Little Angels Animal Sanctuary.
Supervisor Robbins noted the bookkeeper’s computer system needs to be replaced; Eagle Zip has submitted an estimate of $1,434.97 and he is recommending the system be paid for with ARPA funds.
Supervisor Robbins moved the following resolution which was duly moved by Councilman Gustafson:
RESOLVED, the Town of Busti Town Board approve the purchase of a new computer system for the Bookkeeper’s office from Eagle Zip Computer and IT Solutions for the purchase price of $1,434.97 and to be paid with ARPA funds.
Upon roll call vote, all aye, carried.
Supervisor Robbins moved the following resolution which was duly moved by Councilman Andrews:
RESOLVED, that Supervisor Robbins be authorized and directed to pay the presented General Fund and the Highway Fund, Abstract No. 8 from warrant #426 to and including warrant #471 in the amount of $653,410.69.
Upon roll call vote, all aye, carried.
Supervisor Robbins motioned to accept the July 11, 2022 Regular Meeting minutes; motion was seconded by Councilman Brown.
All in favor, carried.
Councilman Brown asked the board if they wanted him to continue to follow-up with the Village of Lakewood’s moratorium and establishing new regulations on Short-Term Rentals. Discussion followed. Attorney Seachrist the town wouldn’t have anything to establish a moratorium on Short Term Rental because the town doesn’t have any regulations for these rentals. Discussion followed regarding the possibility of the town establishing a Short-Term Rental policy.
Councilman Hanson reported Chris Johnson will be sending a quote to paint and lining one tennis and one double pickleball court quote. He will continue to work on getting the drawing completed and then meet with Highway Superintendent Johnson to discuss what the cost would be for the Highway Department to do what work they are able to do.
Councilman Gustafson stated he has been participating in the Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Board. It is a study to determine funding mechanisms for protection and rehabilitation of the lake. They have hired Bars and LouGuidace to do the study, they have been holding public meetings regarding the study. The next meeting is Wednesday, August 10th at 5 pm in the legislative chambers in the Gerace Office Building. The county website also has information about the study and the meetings. They are trying to determine if funding should come from lakefront owners or people who have access to the lake as well as if the law should be written from the county’s or local town’s perspective. There is also a Zoom link on the county’s website to attend the meeting virtually.
Supervisor Robbins moved the board enter Executive Session to discuss personnel matter and possible litigation at 9:15 p.m. duly moved by Councilman Andrews.
All in favor, carried.
Supervisor Robbins moved to close the Executive Session at 9:53 p.m. which was duly moved by Councilman Hanson.
All in favor, carried.
Supervisor Robbins moved to adjourn the regular meeting at 8:16 p.m. which was duly moved by Councilman Gustafson.
All in favor, carried.
Respectfully Submitted, __________________________
Darlene H. Nygren, Town Clerk