ERIC VANALSTYNE, CHAIRMAN
RICHARD GOEBEL, VICE CHAIRMAN
ALBERT PECK III
TONY AMBROSINO, ALTERNATE
TODD UNISLAWSKI, CODEENFORCEMENT OFFICER
SEAN M. GERAGHTY, SR. PLANNER
I. CALL MEETING TO ORDER:
Themeeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m.
II. APPROVE MINUTES OF LAST REGULAR MEETING:
MOTION: Toapprove the minutes to the August 21, 2018
MADE BY: Mike McGrail
SECONDED: Richard Goebel
VOTE: 7in favor, 0 opposed
III. RANDYAND LORRIE ELMENDORF – LOT LINE ADJUSTMENT ALONG SARATOGA BOULEVARD:
Randyand Lorrie Elmendorf own two (2) adjacent parcels in the northeast corner ofthe intersection of Saratoga Boulevard and NYS Route 30A (Tax Map Parcel No.149.12-2-31 - .55 acres and Tax Map Parcel No. 149.12-2-30 – 1.3+/-acres). The Elmendorfs would like tochange the common boundary line between the two (2) parcels so that thesouthernmost parcel has additional road frontage, while the northernmost parcelis given a little more depth and takes on a more uniform shape. The northernmost parcel is already occupiedby a residence and a garage. Theapplicants intend to use the southernmost parcel to construct a new home. The size of the lots will essentially remainthe same.
PLANNINGBOARD DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghtyexplained that the reconfiguration of the common boundary line will allow theproperty owners to have an access driveway for the parcel they intend to buildon that is farther away from the intersection of NYS Route 30A and SaratogaBoulevard. He pointed out that NYSDOTwill need to issue a driveway permit for the property, and will most likelyrequire as much distance from the intersection as possible.
Aftera brief discussion, the Planning Board felt that the lot line adjustment wasnot subject to the Town’s Subdivision Regulations.
MOTION: Recognizingthat Randy and Lorrie Elmendorf’s lot line adjustment is not subject to theTown’s Subdivision Regulations and to approve the proposal as a lot lineadjustment.
MADEBY: Richard Lynaugh
SECONDED: Mike McGrail
VOTE: 7 in favor, 0 opposed
(NOTE: The applicants for the next Agenda item weredelayed so the Planning Board moved on to Other Business.)
IV.PVENGINEERS, P.C. (BORREGO SOLAR) – SPECIAL PERMIT AND SUBDIVISION FOR SOLAR FARMALONG NYS ROUTE 30A:
PVEngineers, P.C. would like to construct a 4.7 megawatt DC Solar Farm along theeast side of NYS Route 30A just north of East State Street Extension onproperty owned by Universal Realty (Tax Map Parcel No. 134.-2-3). The property is approximately 47+/- acres insize. As part of the project, theproperty will be subdivided into two (2) parcels. Lot #1, which will beapproximately 23.76+/- acres in size, will be created around the existingmanufacturing and warehouse operations, while Lot #2, which will beapproximately 23.77+/- acres, will be left for the Solar Farm. While access to the Solar Farm will beprovided through the manufacturing/warehouse property on East State StreetExtension, Lot #2 will have 28’+/- of road frontage along East State StreetExtension.
August 21, 2018 Meeting:
Duringits August 21, 2018 meeting, the Town of Johnstown Planning Board beganreviewing PV Solar’s Special Permit and subdivision applications for a SolarFarm along NYS Route 30A and East State Street Extension. At that time, the Planning Board asked thatthe following information be provided on a revised submittal prior to thescheduling of a public hearing:
1. The Project Narrative should berevised and include additional information concerning the economic and otherreasons for choosing the proposed location for the Solar Farm. Of particular interest will be an outline ofhow the community Solar Farm will offer subscriptions to the community.
STATUS: Not provided.
DISCUSSION: Lindsay McEntire, Project Developer,Borrego Solar, explained to Board members that her firm typically hires amarketing firm to sell the subscriptions for the community Solar Farm. She indicated that this particular projectwill serve somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 homes. She talked about the breakdown of a typicalutility bill. She noted that there are deliveryand supply charges that are based on kilowatt hours used by a homeowner. She indicated that individuals buying a subscriptionfor the Solar Farm will be offered a 10% discount on the local rate for electricusage.
PlanningBoard Alternate Tony Ambrosino asked if homeowners are locked into thesubscription once they buy in?
Ms.McEntire indicated that homeowners are never locked into a subscription. She explained that, if a homeowner no longerwishes to be part of the community Solar Farm or sells the residence, then theywill simply be billed at the normal electric rates by National Grid. She indicated that this particular Solar Farmwill be capable of servicing homeowners in Load Zone F as defined by NationalGrid.
Mr.Geraghty asked approximately how many homeowners will be sent an offer for a subscriptionin order to get 1,200 to 1,500 homeowners to buy into the system?
Ms.McEntire indicated that it varies by community and will depend upon the anticipatedacceptance rate. She indicated that thefirst mailing will be sent out to a certain number of residences within ageographic area surrounding the Solar Farm location and if not enoughhomeowners buy into the subscriptions, the second mailing will be sent tohomeowners in an expanded geographic region.
PlanningBoard Chairman Eric VanAlstyne noted that the applicant’s response concerningthe economic reasons for choosing this particular location was noted as “toovaried to describe.”
Ms.McEntire indicated that there are typically multiple factors that go intodeciding, from an economic standpoint, where to proposed a Solar Farmfacility. She indicated that, typically,multiple sites are looked at and layers of information are gathered before asite is eventually chosen. She indicatedthat Borrego Solar looks at such things as the location of utility tie-ins,wetlands, visibility in relation to high-density residential areas and how easya particular landowner is to deal with. She indicated that, in a previous job, she dealt with Fred Olbrych, theowner of the property for this particular project, and found him very easy todeal with.
2. One and 3-line diagramsdetailing the Solar Farm layout, solar collector installation, associatedcomponents and electrical interconnection methods with all national electriccode compliant disconnects and over current devices must be provided.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Unislawski indicated that he did nothave enough time to work his way through the diagrams that were provided. He indicated that he will spend some moretime before next month’s meeting and offer his comments at that time.
3. Documentation of the majorsystem components to be used, including the PV panels, mounting system andinverter, must be included.
DISCUSSION: The Planning Board had no questionsconcerning the major system components.
4. An Operation and MaintenancePlan for the project must be provided.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty noted that the MaintenancePlan states that the plantings will be taken care of for 1 to 2 years to makesure that they survive. He pointed outthat the Planning Board typically requires a 2-year warranty on anyplantings. Mr. Geraghty pointed out thatthe Maintenance Plan also indicates that the ground cover will be mowed at leastonce each year. He pointed out that,typically, these types of facilities need vegetation to be cut back severaltimes each year.
Ms.McEntire explained that Borrego Solar uses a low-growth ground cover so that itcan reduce ongoing maintenance costs. She noted that it behooves Borrego to maintain the ground cover so thatit doesn’t impact the solar panels.
5. Information on noise (inverter)and reflective/glare of solar panels must be provided.
DISCUSSION: Ms. McEntire explained that the projectwill use string inverters. She explainedthat an individual standing next to one of the inverters will hear sound at alevel of approximately 60 decibels. Sheindicated that 60 decibels is approximately the sound an air conditioner makeswhen you are standing next to it. Sheindicated that, at the fence line, the sound made by those inverters will bethe same as ambient noise.
Mr.Geraghty indicated that additional information will still need to be providedregarding the reflective/glare impacts of the solar panels.
6. Visual analysis of thepotential aesthetic impacts of the Solar Farm project must be provided fromboth the NYS Route 30A and East State Street Extension perspective. Additionally, the Planning Board has askedthat the elevation of NYS Route 30A adjacent to the project site be identified.
STATUS: To be provided.
DISCUSSION: Ms. McEntire explained that SaratogaAssociates has been hired to put together the visual analysis which willinclude mockups of the site from both the NYS Route 30A and East State StreetExtension vantage points. She indicatedthat those mockups will be available for the Planning Board’s nextmeeting.
7. The Solar Farm must be enclosedwithin a minimum 8’ high fence and a self-locking gate or a variance must beobtained from the Town of Johnstown Zoning Board of Appeals.
STATUS: A 7’ chain link fence is still shown on theSite Plan drawings. Once more, theequipment areas have not been clearly identified on the Site Plan drawings.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Unislawski noted that the applicantshave withdrawn their variance application for the 7’ high chain link fence.
Mr.Geraghty noted that the notation identifying a 7’ chain link fence is stillshown on the drawings and will need to be changed.
8. Additional plantings will needto be provided along the southern border of the property, as well as in thesoutheast corner of the property. ThePlanning Board has pointed out that the property is situated along a NYS ScenicByway.
STATUS: A preliminary Landscaping Plan and plantingschedule has been provided.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty talked about the importanceof providing enough landscaping to visually conceal the proposed Solar Farmfacility. He explained that the propertyis situated along NYS Route 30A which is designated as a NYS Scenic Byway at itpasses through Fulton County. As such,Mr. Geraghty noted that the County Planning Board, when it looks at regionalimplications, will be very focused on the aesthetic impacts along thiscorridor.
Mr.Geraghty indicated that he briefly looked at the management plan for this NYSScenic Byway and there are several references to maintaining the aestheticappearance and stewardship of the corridor. Mr. Geraghty noted that the plantings shown on the current LandscapingPlan may provide enough screening if there are more trees provided. He talked about the separation distancesbetween the clusters of trees shown on the Landscaping Plan. He indicated that the gaps between theclusters are currently too large. Healso pointed out that the trees being proposed by the applicant are relativelyslow-growing trees so they will not reach full maturity height for manyyears. Mr. Geraghty suggested that theapplicant reexamine the types of trees that are being proposed for the projectin order to provide a better buffer for the project.
Onceagain, Mr. Geraghty indicated that the Planning Board does not necessarily wishto see a wall of trees planted along the fence line, but will want to see sometype of landscaping that improves the aesthetics of the corridor and, at thesame time, draws the visual focus of the landscape away from the Solar Farmitself. He indicated that anyonetraveling along the NYS Route 30A corridor should not immediately notice thatthere is a large solar facility along the side of the road. Mr. Geraghty speculated that, when theproject is forwarded to the County Planning Board for a review under Section239-m of the General Municipal Law, he suspected that the focus of the CountyPlanning Board’s review and recommendation will be the aesthetic appearance ofthe project and the Landscaping Plan.
9. All solar energy systemcomponents must be located a minimum of 200’ from any residential propertyunless a variance has been issued by the Town of Johnstown Zoning Board ofAppeals (ZBA).
STATUS: The applicant currently has an applicationbefore the Town of Johnstown ZBA seeking a setback variance from the adjacentresidential property.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Unislawski pointed out that a publichearing on the setback variance has been scheduled for the Zoning Board ofAppeals’ October meeting which shall take place prior to the Planning Board’sOctober meeting.
10. Anelevation drawing showing any Solar Farm mechanical equipment, shelters,storage facilities, transformers, substations, etc. must be included on thedetail sheet.
STATUS: Not provided.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty indicated that the PlanningBoard typically asks for an elevation drawing showing what the equipment willlook like inside the electrical equipment area.
Ms.McEntire indicated that she could provide that type of drawing.
11. Thelocation of signage identifying the owner and operator with an emergencytelephone number must be identified on the Site Plan drawing detail sheets.
STATUS: Not provided.
DISCUSSION: Ms. McEntire indicated that she wouldprovide the signage information on the next submittal.
12. Atleast one (1) parking space must be provided adjacent to the equipment shelterand the location of any emergency lighting near the mechanical equipment mustbe noted.
STATUS: There is no indication on the drawings thatparking has been provided near the electrical equipment areas.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty pointed out that the currentdrawings are a little vague in terms of identifying where the electricalequipment areas will be located. Heindicated that the Planning Board, in the past, has not allowed parking spacesto be created along the access roads and has insisted on separate parkingspaces for the electrical equipment areas.
Ms.McEntire indicated that she understood and pointed out that they may combinethe two (2) electrical equipment areas shown on the current plan into one (1)equipment area.
Mr.Geraghty noted that any motion-sensor lighting to be provided as part of theproject will also need to be shown on the drawings.
Ms.McEntire indicated that there will be motion-sensor lights around theelectrical equipment area.
13. Awritten confirmation must be provided from National Grid that the Solar Farmhas been approved for interconnection.
STATUS: Not available.
DISCUSSION: Ms. McEntire indicated that she hoped tohave a letter from National Grid in the near future that she could provide forthe Planning Board.
14. ADecommissioning Plan for the site must be provided, along with cost estimatesprepared by a qualified engineer outlining the cost associated withdecommissioning the Solar Farm.
STATUS: A Decommissioning Plan has beenidentified. The cost of decommissioningthe site after 20 years is estimated at $183,180.47. It appears as though the salvage value of theequipment has been factored into the present value cost estimate todecommission the site.
DISCUSSION: Mr. Geraghty indicated that he and CodeEnforcement Officer Todd Unislawski both reviewed the Decommissioning Plan forthe site. Mr. Geraghty indicated thatthe revised plan identifies a decommissioning cost 20 years from now that isgetting closer to the amounts the Planning Board has requested on previousprojects.
PlanningBoard Chairman Eric VanAlstyne noted that the salvage costs are still beingfactored into the present value of the decommissioning costs.
Mr.Geraghty reminded Ms. McEntire that the Town of Johnstown is not interested inthe salvage costs, so the Decommissioning Plan will need to be reworked withoutthe salvage value of the equipment factored into the equation. He indicated that he suspected the finaldecommissioning cost will be just over $200,000 which, given the size of thisproject, will be about the same as past projects that have been before theBoard.
Interms of providing information on the final subdivision plat, the location ofall utilities and infrastructure including onsite sewage disposal for Lot #1must be shown.
DISCUSION: Mr. Geraghty noted that the subdivisionapplication will require a separate decision by the Planning Board. Consequently, Mr. Geraghty stated that theinfrastructure servicing the existing manufacturing and warehousing operationmust be shown.
Therewas then several minutes of discussion concerning the location of the septicfield and waterlines servicing the property.
Ms.McEntire indicated that she would find that information and have it included onthe final subdivision plat.
State Environmental Quality Review:
Section 617.1 of6 NYCRR states that, the basic purpose of SEQR is to incorporate theconsideration of environmental factors into the existing planning, review anddecision making processes of State, regional and local government agencies atthe earliest possible time. Toaccomplish this goal, SEQR requires that all agencies determine whether theactions they directly undertake, fund or approve may have a significant effecton the environment, and if it is determined that the actions may have asignificant effect, prepare or request an environmental impact statement. Under these terms, the review of a SpecialPermit application is subject to SEQR. Therefore, the following issues must be addressed:
1. Does thePlanning Board feel that the Full Environmental Assessment Form, provided bythe applicant, has been completed adequately?
DISCUSSION: The Planning Board was comfortable with theFull Environmental Assessment Form.
2. Does thePlanning Board feel that any additional information should be provided as partof the SEQR process?
DISCUSSION: Planning Board Chairman Eric VanAlstyne asked if the visual analysis ofthe project should be incorporated into the SEQR process?
Mr. Geraghtyindicated that a visual analysis will be a very significant issue in theenvironmental review of this project.
3. Section617.6 (b)(3) of 6 NYCRR states that, when an agency proposes to directlyundertake, fund or approve a Type 1 or Unlisted Action undergoing a CoordinatedReview with other Involved Agencies, it must, as soon as possible, transmitPart 1 of the Environmental Assessment Form, completed by the Project Sponsor,or a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and a copy of any application that has been received to allInvolved Agencies and notify them that a Lead Agency must be agreed upon within30 calendar days of the date the Environmental Assessment Form or DEIS wastransmitted to them.
DISCUSSION: There was then several minutes of discussionamongst Board members concerning the need to start the Coordinated Review ofthe project under SEQR.
MOTION: To table any further action on BorregoSolar’s Special Permit and subdivision applications pending receipt of thevisual analysis for the project.
MADEBY: Eric VanAlstyne
SECONDED: Albert Peck III
VOTE: 7 in favor, 0 opposed
A. Gloversville Landfill SolarProject:
Mr.Geraghty indicated that he contacted the City of Gloversville following lastmonth’s meeting to find out if Solar City was going to go through with theirplan for a Solar Farm on the former Gloversville Landfill property in the Townof Johnstown. He explained that SolarCity decided to abandon the project. Heindicated that the City of Gloversville subsequently received a proposal fromanother solar developer who would like to develop a solar project on the formerLandfill property. Mr. Geraghty pointedout that, during last month’s meeting, Planning Board Member Dick Lynaughtalked about a recent article in the paper that suggested that the project wasalready approved by the City of Gloversville. Mr. Geraghty stated that the City of Gloversville simply approved theother firm’s proposal to design a new project on the Landfill. Mr. Geraghty stated that the City hasinformed the developers that if the new project differs in any way from theproject proposed by Solar City then the revised project will require a newSpecial Permit from the Town of Johnstown Planning Board.
TownCode Enforcement Officer Todd Unislawski confirmed that he has had a discussionwith the potential developers for this revised proposal and they intend tosubmit a Special Permit application for the Board’s October 2018 meeting.
B. Bonding for Improvements:
Mr.Geraghty stated that he did some research following last month’s meeting afterPlanning Board Chairman Eric VanAlstyne questioned whether the Planning Boardhad the right to require applicants to bond for improvements, specificallylandscaping that is required as part of Special Permits or Site Planapproval. Mr. Geraghty indicated thatthere is clear language in the Town Zoning Law under the Special Permitprocedures that allows the Planning Board to require an applicant to post abond for improvements such as fences, landscaping, infrastructure, or so thatthe Town is assured that the improvements included in the design and approvedby the Planning Board are actually constructed and installed.
C. There were then several minutesof discussion concerning the previously-approved Solar Farm Projects along NYSRoute 67 and the Solar Farm Project along West State Street Extension. Specifically, the Board talked about thelandscaping improvements that were supposed to be made for each project. Mr. Unislawski informed Board members that hewill be contacting National Grid concerning the project along NYS Route 67 tofind out if the interconnection for that system has become active. With regards to the project along West StateStreet Extension, Mr. Unislawski pointed out that he didn’t believe theinterconnection has physically taken place since there is still a tremendousamount of wiring that clearly has not been connected.
VI.CLOSE OF THEMEETING:
MOTION: Toclose the meeting at 7:23 p.m.
MADEBY: Richard Goebel
SECONDED: Mike McGrail
VOTE: 7 in favor, 0 opposed