(See also application for a battery storage facility at Staples Shopping Center and proposed legislation regulating this type of facility.)
Planning Board 12-21-2020
The applicant reviewd the plans. Mr. Bock thanked the applicant for providing additional information regarding his concerns about the possible need for any secondary containment. While the applicant called attention to the additional planting proposed along Route 6, after Assistant Planner Steinberg noted that the storage facilities would be visible from East Main Street, the board asked the applicant to see what additional planting could be added to the plan and still stay within the required clearance from the actual storage units.
Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked the board not to approve the application until the Town Board reached a decision on the tax abatement that the project would be eligible for. (See Town Board 12/15/2020.) In response, the applicant said that he was negotiating a PILOT agreement (payment in lieu of taxes) with the town and Mr. Tegeder said that there would be a meeting about the PILOT next week. The applicant added that his intention to enter into the PILOT agreement was despite the fact that the town had missed a deadline to opt out of the abatement program and by default the applicant did to have to enter into one.
Jay Kopstein asked a series of technical questions about the equipment and safety markings and a resident asked about the frequently of inspections. In response to the latter, the applicant responded that while there is a formal maintenance agreement the equipment would be inspected, by the applicant, more than one a year.
The board closed the hearing and at the request of the applicant, proceeded to adopt the approval resolution, adding the condition that the landscape plan be subject to the board’s approval. The approval resolution also noted that any existing exterior storage on the site that did not have a permit had to be removed.
Planning Bard, 11-23-2020
The applicant showed the board a revised plan with additional landscaping that was in response to meetings with the Planning Department staff and the Conservation Board. The revised plan includes a wetlands mitigation plan and a plan to clean up the wetlands. Additional evergreens will be planted to screen the units; the board was pleased with the additional landscaping and the applicant’s responsiveness. The board noted that some bucket trucks parked on the site should be removed as they violate the existing zoning code. In response to Mr. Bock’s concern over possible leaks that could migrate chemicals to the nearby stream, the applicant said that the liquid in the fire suppression system turns into a gas when it is released in the unlikely event that there should be a leak and also when, if necessary, the equipment is needed to suppress a fire. The applicant also indicated that while leaks are unlikely from the storage units, he will look into the possibility of constructing some sort of curb-like containment around them.
A public hearing will be held in December.
Planning Board, 10-26-2020
The applicant has met with the Conservation Board and ABACA. Both want more trees and screening, especially along Route 6, but the fire board (or inspector, it wasn’t clear which one had made the comment), doesn’t want trees along Route 6 to obstruct the view into the site. The applicant acknowledged that some balancing will be needed to address the apparent conflicting recommendations.
Mr. Fon advised the applicant that the overall site, which is home to an auto body business, needed, in his words, “some TLC.” He was also concerned about some debris encroachment into the wetlands.
Mr. Bock wanted to know what precautions there were to contain any leaks or spills from entering the nearby stream. The applicant said that a secondary containment system, suggested by Mr. LaScala, wasn’t necessary because the only potential leaks or spills could be from the refrigerant used in the AC system or from fire suppression but that neither chemical was considered hazardous.
There were no public comments. The hearing was closed.
Planning Board, 10-5-2020
The applicant presented revised plans that conform to the recently adopted Battery Storage Law. One change included reducing the size of the proposed project so that it conformed to the 15% coverage requirement. The existing buildings on the site will remain.
The applicant also advised the board that the DEC has said that no permit is needed and that FEMA has said that the site is not in a flood plain. The facility, which will consist of 5 containers, would provide 5,000 KW of electricityr to the grid for a maximum of four hours; the facility is not designed to provide electricity when the grid is down but only to provide additional electricity during peak hours when needed to avoid brownouts.
The board was most concerned about the proposed screening along Route 6, especially in the winter. Also, the Fire Department has requested a chain link fence and the board asked the applicant to work with the Department on a possibly more attractive fence.
As per the new legislation, Mr. Fon explained that the board’s review of the application is limited to the appropriateness of the site and screening. The board will also ask that the technical plans, which will include fire suppression systems, be reviewed by a state per review panel.
Town Board, 11-12-2019
The applicant advised the board that he had no issue with the suggestion that its plan undergo peer review and that it would provide the required first responder training and adhere to the Fire Code. He objected, however, to the possibility that his application would be caught in a proposed moratorium after being before the Zoning Board for five months.
In response, Supervisor Gilbert distinguished the Staples project which is being considered an accessory use to the site’s main use, i.e., a shopping center, from the Gomer Court project which is a primary use. Councilman Lachterman assured the applicant that the board was moving as quickly as possible on the proposed new law and that it was not likely that the project would be held up for a year.
Town Board, 10-22-2019
(For background, see also proposed facility on Gomer Court.) The board is considering two possible local laws: one would be a one year moratorium on approving any of these facilities, including the two currently being reviewed by the Planning Board and the Zoning Board, while the Town Board considered a second local law that would regulate these types of facilities.
While generally supportive of these facilities, the sense of the board was that they needed to learn more about them, especially issues involving their safety, the extent to which local first responders had to be trained to deal with any incidents and why special training was necessary, and where the facilities should be permitted.
In addition to the two applications currently under review, Stewart Glass, the supervisor’s assistant noted that there has been interest in constructing similar facilities on two town owned parcels, neither of which was identified.
In explaining the rationale for the moratorium law, Town Attorney Abbate said it would give the board time it sit back and take a look at the issue, noting that currently the town did not have any procedures in place to regulate battery storage facilities. He added that the proposed moratorium law included an exemption for hardship cases that would be determined by the Town Board. A hardship would exist, he said, if the applicant could show that it had incurred substantial expenses to date or if construction had already started. Based on his research, Mr. Abbate said that Putnam Valley had enacted a one year moratorium
Noting that his application has been before the Zoning Board since July, the applicant for the Gomer Street facility appeared to oppose the moratorium that would put a hold on his application.
The proposed law regulating battery storage facilities is based on a NYSERDA model law that was published in July and would regulate three tiers of facilities, from home based storage facilities that would be an accessory to a solar system to larger facilities that did not have a solar component. The details of the proposed law were not discussed.
The board voted to refer out both laws and discussed the need to have a more formal presentation about battery storage facilities at a future date.
Planning Board, 9-23-2019
The applicant advised the board that it met all the requirements in the proposed NYSERDA model law and that it had made changes to the site plan in accord with the Planning Board’s earlier concerns. The ZBA is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the application for a special permit on Thursday.
Although the site is currently in a flood plain, the applicant explained that the FEMA map is incorrect (the board agreed that there are problems with the current FEMA maps) and is working to have the map amended to eliminate the site. If the ZBA approves granting the special permit, he said he would accept the condition that the permit not go into effect until after the map was amended.
Mr. Bock raised questions about the potential negative impact on the stream from spills or ruptures and asked if the application has been referred to the Conservation Board; the applicant did not know. The applicant’s engineer explained all the safety features.
Although the applicant reminded the board that the building inspector had determined that the application fell within the bounds of the Zoning Code’s special permit requirements for a “public utility substation,” the board was mindful of the new NYSERDA model law and decided that in its memo to the Zoning Board it would include the following points:
--The need for a referral to the Conservation Board
--The need for mitigation for disturbance to a wetland buffer
--The unresolved flood plain issue
--The fact that the ZBA might want to slow down its process while the Town Board decided how to address the possible need for a local law regulating battery storage facilities.
Planning Board 9-9-2019
The applicant showed a revised plan that addressed changes discussed at the previous meeting. Mr. LaScala, citing a magazine article about an explosion at such a facility, brought up the issue of the plan’s fire suppression system which led Stewart Glass, the supervisor’s assistant, to advise the board that as of July, 2019, NYSERDA had published a model local law governing battery storage facilities. He noted that, to date, there have been three applications for such facilities, with the Gomer Court facility being the largest. The other two proposals are for the Staples Shopping Center and an unnamed town owned parcel.
Mr. Fon said that that state building code governed the issue and that towns could not make changes to the code.
Mr. Bock noted that the storage units were in the wetland buffer which raised questions about the proximity of the stream that feeds into Lake Osceola. Mr. Tegeder noted that the proposed plan would actually clean up the debris currently in the buffer and advised the applicant to discuss the wetland and other issues with staff prior to returning the board in two weeks.
Planning Board, 8-12-2019
On a referral from the Zoning Board, the board reviewed an application for a special permit for a “public utility substation” to install a battery storage facility on a parcel in an office zone. The parcel is located between East Main Street and Route 6 near te intersection with 6N.
The facility, which would store electricity from the grid and return it to the grid when necessary, is part of a state program to create storage for electricity rather than construct new generating facilities. The project would receive financing from NYSERDA. The facility would include two storage like containers about 13’ high.
In response to questions from Mr. Tegeder, the applicant advised the board that the building inspector had determined that the use qualified as a public utility substation even though the applicant acknowledged that the company is not regulated by the PSC.
The board raised questions about the need for a decommissioning plan as the batteries have an estimated 15 year life span. The board asked to see a rendering of what the storage containers would look like. There was also some discussion of whether a fence along Route 6 would be needed to shield the view.