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Planning board reviews solar farm

GLOVERSVILLE — The city Planning Board on Tuesday reviewed a visual analysis provided by Eden Renewables that found a solar farm proposed for development by Eden on the former Pine Brook Golf Club on South Main Street would be screened from the view of nearly all properties in the city by existing vegetation and topography, with some additional screening measures required.

The visual analysis was provided as part of Eden’s application seeking to subdivide the 155-acre former Pine Brook Golf Club property at 280 S. Main St. into four parcels. Eden Renewables has proposed developing a solar farm on the 57-acre lot that would be created at the center of the existing property.

Additional lots that would be created by the subdivision would include a 91-acre parcel running along the perimeter of the existing property, a 2-acre parcel encompassing the area surrounding the former clubhouse building and a 1.46-acre parcel that would be combined with the neighboring Antonucci Foods property at 274 S. Main St. that could lead to a future expansion project.

Eden Renewables first appeared before the Planning Board in February to present the subdivision application that will be required before developers request that the Common Council rezone the 57-acre residential lot for commercial use. A solar farm is not a permitted use in an R1 residential zone under city code but is allowed in a commercial zone subject to a special permit application.

The Pine Brook Golf Club owners initially petitioned the Common Council to rezone the entire 150-acre parcel commercial to allow the solar project. The city after hearing concerns from neighboring property owners declined to redistrict the entire property and council members instead signaled their willingness to entertain a petition to rezone the section of the property eyed for the solar project following the subdivision of the property.

Although the Planning Board is currently considering only the subdivision application, the board in February determined that the full scope and potential impact of the solar farm would need to be considered as part of the review process as the future intended use of the property for the development of a solar farm following further approvals is well known.

Eden plans to develop a community solar project on the 57-acre center parcel across approximately 32 to 35 acres at the core of the lot with a gap of 15 to 20 feet between each row of the approximately eight and a half feet tall axis tracker solar panel modules that follow the path of the sun throughout the day. The solar array would have a capacity of approximately 7.5 MWp and would be capable of powering about 1,225 homes.

Due to the property’s location near the center of the city and ringed by residential properties, the primary concern raised by the Planning Board earlier this year was from the potential visual impact of the proposed solar farm.

Since the initial subdivision application review, project developers and engineers completed a visual analysis to determine sight lines for the completed project as proposed using a digital rendering of the planned solar farm and aerial photography to determine where the project would be visible from throughout the city.

Sean Geraghty, consultant to the Fulton County Planning Department, on Wednesday described the returned visual analysis that was reviewed by the Planning Board on Tuesday as “very thorough.”

The visual analysis conducted by Travis Mitchell of Environmental Design Partnership of Clifton Park considered various vantage points to determine from where the project would be visible. The study determined that the project could be viewed at certain points along Lexington Avenue, Woodside Avenue, South Main Street and Sixth Street. The analysis was used to develop screening measures to block views of the site at heights as low as five feet and as high as 50 feet.

Geraghty noted that project developers would likely approach the owner of one property along Lexington Avenue from which the solar farm would be visible, where the configuration of the site would not provide Eden enough room to implement screening measures on their property. Geraghty pointed to common practice in such instances for developers to offer at their own expense to install screening measures on the impacted homeowner’s property.

From other surrounding residential streets and the Rail Trail the solar project would not be visible until a height of 75 feet off the ground was reached based on existing vegetation and site topography. Additionally, the analysis determined the project would not be visible from the two tallest nearby structures in the city, Forest Hill Towers and Kingsboro Towers.

The Planning Board did not immediately raise any issues with the visual analysis, or the subdivision application as submitted, but Geraghty noted that the board plans to review the detailed study more thoroughly over the next month.

In the interim, the Planning Board on Tuesday approved a motion to schedule a public hearing on the subdivision application for the former Pine Brook Golf Course for the next meeting on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

If the Planning Board ultimately approves the subdivision application at a future meeting, property owners would then need to successfully petition the Common Council to redistrict the parcel eyed for development of the solar farm commercial before Eden could submit a special permit application to the Planning Board seeking approval for the solar project.

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