TOWN OF JOHNSTOWN PLANNING BOARD

JANUARY 10, 2017
6:00 P.M.
PLANNING DEPARTMENT CONFERENCE ROOM
MEETING NOTES

PRESENT:

GARTH BRUCE, CHAIRMAN

RICHARD GOEBEL, VICE CHAIRMAN

RICHARD LYNAUGH

ALBERT PECK III

ERIC VANALSTYNE

RYAN FAGAN, CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER

SEAN M. GERAGHTY, SR. PLANNER

I. CALL MEETING TO ORDER:

The meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m.

II. APPROVE MINUTES OF LAST REGULAR MEETING:

MOTION: To approve the minutes to the December 13, 2016

meeting.

MADE BY: Richard Lynaugh

SECONDED: Richard Goebel

VOTE: 5 in favor, 0 opposed

III. ELECTION OF OFFICERS:

Background:

In accordance with Section 271 of the Town Law of New York State, the Chairperson of the Planning Board is appointed by the Town Board. However, in the absence of this appointment, the Planning Board is authorized to designate a member to serve as the Chairperson. The Town of Johnstown Planning Board Bylaws stipulate that the Planning Board shall also have a Vice Chairman to exercise or perform all duties and assume all responsibilities of the Chairman in his or her absence.

DISCUSSION: Planning Board Chairman Garth Bruce nominated Planning Board Vice Chairman Dick Goebel to serve as Chairman for 2017.

MOTION: To nominate Planning Board Vice Chairman Dick Goebel to serve as Chairman for 2017.

MADE BY: Garth Bruce

SECONDED: Dick Lynaugh

VOTE: 5 in favor, 0 opposed

DISCUSSION: Mr. Bruce nominated Eric VanAlstyne to serve as Vice Chairman for 2017.

MOTION: To nominate Eric VanAlstyne to serve as Vice Chairman for 2017.

MADE BY: Garth Bruce

SECONDED: Dick Lynaugh

VOTE: 5 in favor, 0 opposed

IV. DG NEW YORK SOLAR, LLC – PUBLIC HEARING ON A SUBDIVISION AND SPECIAL PERMIT APPLICATION FOR SOLAR FARMS ALONG NYS ROUTE 67:

Background:

DG New York Solar, LLC would like to construct four (4) separate 2 megawatt Solar Farms along NYS Route 67 in the Town of Johnstown (Tax Map Parcel Nos. 176.-2-47 and 176.-2-39). DG New York Solar has purchased both properties which total approximately 185+/- acres. The total area of Solar Farm disturbance is estimated to be approximately 52.5 acres. The applicant will be combining the two (2) Tax Map Parcels and resubdividing the property into four (4) separate parcels that will be used for each 2 megawatt Solar Farm.

December 13, 2016 Meeting:

During its December 13, 2016 meeting, the Town of Johnstown Planning Board began its review of DG New York Solar’s subdivision and Special Permit applications for Solar Farms along NYS Route 67. At that time, the Planning Board asked that the following information be provided with a revised submittal package prior to the public hearing:

1. In order to conduct a concurrent review of both the Special Use Permit application and the subdivision application for the project, the Planning Board needs a copy of the subdivision plat showing the legal metes and bounds description of the four (4) lots to be created as part of the project.

STATUS: Sheets 10-16 on the revised submittal show the boundaries of the four (4) areas to be leased for the individual 2 megawatt Solar Farm installations. Parcel 1 is approximately 35.565 acres in size. Parcel 2 is separated into a 10.868 acre parcel along with a 14.76 acre parcel that is divided by the National Grid power lines. Parcel 3 is approximately 40.035 acres in size, and Parcel 4 is divided into a 47.37 acre parcel and 36.409 acre parcel that is separated by the National Grid power lines. The drawings do not, however, provide a metes and bounds description of the four (4) leased parcels.

DISCUSSION: John Wendelburg, P.E., Kleinfelder, pointed out that a metes and bounds description of the leased parcels was submitted as part of the application booklet. After a brief discussion, Board members indicated that they were comfortable with the proposed layout of the subdivision.

Mr. Geraghty indicated that, eventually, a full-size set of subdivision drawings will need to be provided for the Planning Board Chairman’s signature. He explained that the Planning Board will need two (2) copies for its own records.

2. The amount of tree clearing to take place on the property should be identified and noted on the revised drawings.

STATUS: Sheet 9 depicts the amount of tree clearing to take place on the project site.

DISCUSSION: Mr. Wendelburg pointed out that the amount of tree clearing on the project site is noted on Sheet 9 as approximately 5.5 acres.

The Planning Board had no further comments regarding this issue.

3. The final topographic work for the project site should be shown on the drawings.

STATUS: The existing grades on the project site will remain post construction. Plan sheets 16-21 show the existing contours for each of the leased parcels.

DISCUSSION: The Planning Board had no comments regarding the topographic features of the site.

4. A short narrative outlining the technical and economic factors for picking this particular site should be provided as part of the revised application package.

STATUS: Provided.

5. The total number of panels to be installed for each Solar Farm should be specifically noted on the drawings.

STATUS: Plan Sheet 16 contains a Summary Sheet identifying the total number of panels to be installed as part of the project.

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty noted that the Summary Sheet indicates that the Solar Farm projects will have a total of 31,136 solar panels.

6. An Operation and Maintenance Plan, which includes measures for maintaining safe access to the installation, stormwater controls, as well as general procedures for operational maintenance of the installation should be provided.

STATUS: Provided.

DISCUSSION: The Planning Board had no questions or comments regarding the Operation and Maintenance Plan.

7. The specification for the racking systems should be provided on the revised drawings.

STATUS: Provided.

8. As the Planning Board understands it, DG New York Solar currently has two (2) Area Variance applications before the Town of Johnstown Zoning Board of Appeals. Those Area Variance requests should specifically be noted on the revised plan.

STATUS: Sheets 11, 12, and 14 depict where the Area Variances will be needed. On Thursday, January 5, 2017, the Town of Johnstown Zoning Board of Appeals granted DG New York Solar’s Area Variance requests for the project.

DISCUSSION: The Planning Board offered no questions concerning the Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to grant DG New York Solar’s Area Variance requests.

9. A vegetative buffer to break up the visual appearance of the fenceline along NYS Route 67 must be provided. This vegetative buffer must stretch the entire length of the fenceline along NYS Route 67. The Planning Board has not identified a specific planting requirement, but some type of arborvitae may be the best choice since that type of planting will provide year round screening. The Planning Board also indicated that privacy slats will not need to be installed in the fence along the NYS Route 67 right-of-way as a result of the plantings.

STATUS: Sheet 23 of the submittal shows the proposed landscaping plan along NYS Route 67. The applicants are proposing to install approximately 224 trees along this stretch of NYS Route 67 in clusters of three (3). According to the plant list on Sheet 3, each of the trees will be approximately 3-4 feet in height at the time of planting and will grow to a height of approximately 10 feet with a 4-8 foot spread.

DISCUSSION: County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty asked the applicants to explain how the proposed plantings were selected?

Dave Thompkins, Kleinfelder, explained that he tried to pick native species that would not cause any shadowing on the solar panels. He indicated that he also chose species that would not attract deer. He noted that the species identified in the Planting Schedule can grow and thrive in a variety of conditions. He pointed out that the soils on the project site are predominantly clay.

Planning Board Member Albert Peck noted that all of the plantings are deciduous trees that will lose leaves during the winter months and will expose the fence line.

Mr. Geraghty agreed, but pointed out that the positioning of the trees along the fence line should still provide enough visual contrast to break up the appearance of the fence line.

Planning Board Member Eric VanAlstyne asked if the applicants would be responsible for replacing any plantings that don’t survive?

Mr. Geraghty suggested that additional language be included in the Operation and Maintenance Plan making the applicants responsible for replacing any trees that do not survive so that a few years from now the tree line does not include several dead trees.

Both Mr. Wendleburg and Mr. Thompkins indicated that additional language could be added to the Operation and Maintenance Plan making it the applicant’s responsibility to replace any dead or damaged trees.

After a few more minutes of discussion, the Planning Board felt that the plantings proposed by the applicant would be adequate.

10. A specification for the transformer pads should be provided on the revised drawing.

STATUS: Provided.

11. The location and design of all lighting to be provided on the property must be shown on the drawings.

STATUS: The applicant has indicated with the revised submittal that there will be no lighting on the site.

12. The location, size and design of all signage to be installed on the property must be shown on the drawings.

STATUS: Provided.

13. Town Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Fagan should be contacted regarding the draft Decommissioning Plan for the project to see if he has any comments or changes he would like made to the Plan.

STATUS: ?

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty explained that he has had conversations with Town Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Fagan concerning the Decommissioning Plan for the project. He stated that it has been his impression that Mr. Fagan is comfortable with what the applicants have proposed as a financial surety for the project. He indicated that he would track down Mr. Fagan and find out if there are any final changes he would like to have made to the Plan.

14. The applicant was asked to make several minor revisions to the Part 1 Full Environmental Assessment Form for the project.

STATUS: Those revisions have all been made to the document.

DISCUSSION: Mr. VanAlstyne asked if there were any discussions at last month’s meeting concerning the provision of turnaround areas outside of the fence lines?

Mr. Geraghty explained that there are turnaround areas just inside the fence line for each of the leased parcels. He also pointed out that the access driveways to two (2) of the leased parcels will be very short and that the fence line is very close to the road. He noted that the access driveway for Leased Parcel #4 does not include any additional space for a turnaround area because the access driveway goes through a wetland area. He pointed out that if additional space is constructed along that driveway, a wetlands permit will likely be needed.

Mr. Thompkins confirmed that the intent is to leave the driveway access to Leased Parcel #4 unchanged.

State Environmental Quality Review:

During its December 13, 2016 meeting, the Town of Johnstown Planning Board classified the proposed project as a Type 1 Action and proposed that it act as the Lead Agency for the purpose of issuing a determination of significance under SEQR. A copy of the Site Plan drawings along with the completed Full Environmental Assessment Form was forwarded to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), US Army Corps of Engineers, the NYS Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Fulton County Highway and Facilities Office and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting comments on the Town of Johnstown Planning Board’s proposal to act as Lead Agency or on the project itself.

STATUS:

NYSDEC:

In a letter dated December 20, 2016, the NYSDEC concurred with the Town of Johnstown Planning Board’s proposal to act as Lead Agency. NYSDEC notes that any disturbance of more than 1 acre of land will require a SPEDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities. DEC also notes that Freshwater Wetland TH-3 is located in the project area and that any disturbance within that wetland and the 100-foot adjacent area will require an Article 24 Freshwater Wetlands Permit. Finally, NYSDEC notes that the Kayaderosseras Creek a Class C(T) stream is also located in the project area and that any disturbance to the bed or banks of the stream will require an Article 15 Protection of Waters Permit.

DISCUSSION: The Planning Board had no questions concerning NYSDEC’s response.

FAA:

In an e-mail dated January 9, 2017, Jose Moreno, Airport Planner, FAA NY District Office, offers no comments regarding the Town of Johnstown Planning Board’s proposal to act as Lead Agency. However, Mr. Moreno did express his gratitude that a glare analysis for the project has been prepared and has encouraged the Town of Johnstown Planning Board to keep the FAA informed of any of these types of projects on Airport property or on properties adjacent to the Airport.

DISCUSSION: The Planning Board had no questions regarding the FAA response.

The Planning Board received no other comments from Involved Agencies.

MOTION: Declaring the Town of Johnstown Planning Board the Lead Agency for the purpose of issuing a determination of significance on DG New York Solar LLC’s Solar Farm Project along NYS Route 67 in the Town of Johnstown.

MADE BY: Eric VanAlstyne

SECONDED: Garth Bruce

VOTE: 5 in favor, 0 opposed

FURTHER DISCUSSION: The Planning Board did not feel that the proposed action would generate any significant adverse environmental impacts.

MOTION: Authorizing the filing of a negative declaration under SEQR for this proposed action since:

1. The applicants have sufficient acreage available to subdivide the project site into four (4) parcels each to be leased for a 2 megawatt Solar Farm.

2. As designed, the project will avoid any impacts to wetlands and streams on the project site.

3. The necessary utility connections to National Grid’s infrastructure are readily available to the project site.

4. There will be no traffic implications resulting from the proposed action.

5. The visual impact of the project will be minimized by the plantings to be provided along NYS Route 67.

MADE BY: Dick Lynaugh

SECONDED: Dick Goebel

VOTE: 5 in favor, 0 opposed

Public Hearing:

1. The public hearing was opened at 6:28 P.M.

2. Speakers:

Planning Board Member Albert Peck asked whether or not the Solar Farm would be taxable in the Town of Johnstown?

Town Supervisor Jack Wilson explained that the Town Board looked into taxing just commercial solar installations and not residential installations and found that this would not be feasible. He indicated that the Town is currently discussing the idea of requiring PILOT payments from solar developers in lieu of tax payments for these types of projects.

Mr. Geraghty explained that the County has already adopted a Local Law that will require Solar Farm developers to negotiate a PILOT Agreement with the County in lieu of paying County taxes.

Planning Board Member Dick Lynaugh agreed with Mr. Peck that there doesn’t appear to be any benefit to the Town if it allows Solar Farms to continue to be developed and does not tax them.

Again, Mr. Wilson noted that the Town Board is currently discussing the idea of negotiating PILOT payments with Solar Farm developers.

Mr. Geraghty also noted that the School District has the ability to opt out of Real Property Tax Law provisions exempting these types of projects from local taxation, but he is not sure where that issue stands with those entities.

3. The public hearing was closed at 6:36 P.M.

Planning Board Action:

Subdivision:

In accordance with Section 276 of the Town Law of New York State, the Planning Board shall, by resolution, conditionally approve, with or without modification, disapprove or grant final approval and authorize the signing of the subdivision plat within sixty-two (62) days after the public hearing.

MOTION: To approve DG New York Solar’s subdivision application for a Solar Farm Project along NYS Route 67.

MADE BY: Dick Goebel

SECONDED: Dick Lynaugh

VOTE: 4 in favor, 1 opposed (Albert Peck)

Special Permit Application:

In accordance with Section 84-54(D)(9)(a) of the Town of Johnstown Zoning Regulations, the Planning Board shall grant, deny or grant subject to conditions the application for Special Use Permit within sixty-two (62) days after the hearing.

MOTION: To approve DG New York Solar’s Special Use Permit for Solar Farms along NYS Route 67 with the contingency that additional language be included in the Operation and Maintenance Plan concerning the replacement of dead or damaged trees along NYS Route 67.

MADE BY: Garth Bruce

SECONDED: Eric VanAlstyne

VOTE: 4 in favor, 1 opposed (Albert Peck)

V. SUREFIRE SIGN, INC. – SPECIAL USE PERMIT FOR BILLBOARD ALONG NYS ROUTE 30A:

Background:

Surefire Sign, Inc. would like to install a 10’ x 30’ 2-sided LED billboard on property owned by the First Choice Financial Credit Union along NYS Route 30A (Tax Map Parcel No. 149.-1-54). The property to be used by the applicant was recently purchased by the Credit Union from NYSDOT as part of the disposition of excess right-of-way along NYS Route 30A. The property is approximately 1.739+/- acres in size with 501 linear feet of frontage along NYS Route 30A. However, the parcel does not have access to NYS Route 30A or South Kingsboro Avenue Extension. The property is located in an M-1 Manufacturing District, which requires a Special Use Permit for off-premise signs.

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty explained to Frank Marzullo, Surefire Sign, Inc., that, last night, the Johnstown Town Board adopted a zoning amendment that cleared up conflicting provisions that existed in the Town Zoning Law with regards to off-premise signs. Mr. Geraghty explained that, as a result of the Zoning Law amendment, off-premise signs are now only allowed in an M-1 Manufacturing District subject to a Special Use Permit. As such, Mr. Geraghty explained that Surefire Sign’s concept plan for an LED billboard on property at the intersection of NYS Route 29A and 30A owned by Adirondack Express Lube is no longer feasible since that property is located in a Commercial District. On the other hand, Mr. Geraghty pointed out that Surefire Sign’s application to place an off-premise sign on property owned by the First Choice Financial Federal Credit Union along NYS Route 30A is still a feasible project since that property is located in an M-1 Manufacturing District.

Mr. Geraghty suggested that the Board hold a discussion with Mr. Marzullo concerning the submittal requirements for a Special Use Permit application. He indicated to Mr. Marzullo that if he wished to discuss the status of his previous application for the Adirondack Express Lube property, he should contact either Town Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Fagan or Town Attorney Leah Everhart.

Mr. Marzullo indicated that he would pursue that issue with those individuals.

Submittal Requirements:

1. Article X, Section 84-54C of the Town of Johnstown Zoning Regulations spells out the information that must be provided with a Special Use Permit application.

A plot plan drawn to scale with accurate dimensions providing information sufficient to enable the Board to make an informed decision.

STATUS: Mr. Marzullo indicated that he knew that all of the information required by the Planning Board was not provided for the Credit Union property. He indicated that he didn’t think the Planning Board was going to be addressing this application this evening.

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty pointed out that the information provided with the Credit Union property should be included on a scaled plot plan showing the exact dimensions of the proposed sign, as well as the various setback distances from property lines and other structures on the property.

2. A narrative describing the proposed use and operation.

STATUS: ?

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty suggested that a narrative briefly describing the operation of the LED billboard be included with the submittal package.

3. A Short Environmental Assessment Form.

STATUS: ?

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty pointed out that, since the project must be reviewed as a Special Use Permit, the State Environmental Quality Review procedures will need to be followed and, consequently, a Short Environmental Assessment Form will need to be submitted by the applicant.

Planning Board Issues:

1. The property that was acquired by the Credit Union contains several utility easements. The specific location of the proposed off-premise sign must be shown on a scaled drawing in order to give an accurate representation of where the sign will be located in relation to those easements. Marking an “X” on a survey drawing is not an accurate representation.

DISCUSSION: Mr. Marzullo agreed that the actual location of the sign on the Credit Union property in relation to all of the easements shown on his preliminary submittal will be shown on a revised plot plan for the application.

2. In accordance with Article VI, Section 84-21 of the Town of Johnstown Zoning Regulations, off-premise signs that are located in an M-1 Manufacturing District cannot exceed 300 sq. ft. in area and shall not direct any source of illumination toward any public street or adjacent residential property.

STATUS: The applicant’s sign is identified as a 2-sided 30’ x 10’ sign which would make the total sign area 600 sq. ft. Consequently, the applicant will need to seek an area variance from the Town of Johnstown Zoning Board of Appeals for the proposed sign.

DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty explained that the calculation of sign area in the Town of Johnstown Zoning Law includes both sides of a 2-sided sign and, therefore, a 10’ x 30’ sign has an area of 600 sq. ft.

Mr. Marzullo indicated that he would seek a variance from the Town of Johnstown Zoning Board of Appeals for the additional sign area.

Town Supervisor Jack Wilson pointed out that the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals meets the first Thursday of the month which will be February 2, 2017.

VI. OTHER BUSINESS:

A. Chairman’s Update:

Outgoing Chairman Garth Bruce thanked Board members for their efforts during 2016.

2017 Planning Board Chairman Dick Goebel asked that a key to the building be provided to not only the Chairman, but also the Vice Chairman so that Board members don’t get locked out of a meeting.

Planning Board Member Dick Lynaugh pointed out that the Planning Board vouchers are available for signature in the Town Clerk’s office so that members can be paid for the meetings they attended in 2016.

Mr. Geraghty indicated that the annual training sessions at FMCC will be held on Wednesday, February 8, 2017. He indicated that Board members should have received an e-mail from his office with the registration flyer for the event.

VII. CLOSE OF THE MEETING:

MOTION: To close the meeting at 6:52 p.m.

MADE BY: Dick Goebel

SECONDED: Dick Lynaugh

VOTE: 5 in favor, 0 opposed