By Caitlin Croft
The February meeting of the Ellicottville Town Board opened with a public hearing regarding a local law allowing the town to opt-out of certain commercial, business and industrial exemptions.
Corey Wiktor of the Cattaraugus County IDA spoke against opting out, citing this as a great tool in their toolbox for stimulating commercial improvements and development. There are few tools that Cattaraugus County has and to opt-out would be taking away one of the few they do have, Wiktor said.
Town Assessor Harry Weissman advised it was more trouble than worth to opt-out. Board member Greg Fitzpatrick agreed, saying “it should be left in place.”
A second public hearing regarding the proposed zoning amendment for solar projects was held next with several people in attendance who wished to speak. After the last public hearing, there had been some changes to the amendment from the public comment.
The hot button change was not allowing solar farms on anything greater than a 15-percent grade or land classified as steep slopes. Another major change was increasing the set back from existing structures from 100 feet to 500 feet.
Joel Santisteban of Ecology Energy spoke to these two changes citing they are particularly constraining for project development. He said he feels it needs to be more flexible as the steep slope requirement is “particularly aggressive in his mind.”
Michael Schaffer, property owner on Witch Hollow Road thanked the committee and boards for their hard work on this matter. He advised he was heavily involved in the town of Wheatfield and their solar projects and asked the board to take a hard look at the 500-foot setback. Town Supervisor Matthew McAndrew advised that Ellicottville is much different than Wheatfield and the board will address the matter with the best interest of the town at heart.
There are concerns about property values and soil erosion on steep slopes around the mechanicals of a solar farm. Brian Noble thanked the boards and committee for listening to the concerns of the public from the last public hearing and making changes that still allow projects but keep the land and property values in mind.
Gabe Bialkowsk, owner and operator of Ellicottville Greens, commented that they are looking to build the largest vertical farm production in this area and beyond and are looking to power with solar. These restrictions will make the investment in solar even more costly as they will have to be installed on the tops of the containers and changes the scope of their project.
The board stated this has been a process and there is still a lot to think about.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the 2015 SAM Recovery Grant was received for approximately $741,000. The first of the Shared Services initiative payment was received for $31,117.29. This is part of the collective work of the Cattaraugus County Shared Services meetings. This county was one of the first to submit their plan for shared services.
In the police report, there were two overdoses at a local bar, and the board thanked Don Auge for the police’s quick response and ability to administer Narcan and save the two victims lives.
It was noted that the Boot Drive will be held in May to benefit Roswell this year.
The board approved Clark Patterson Lee Architects to design a new heating a boiler configuration for the town center.
In the highway department, there was a conversation regarding the drainage project at Upper and Holiday Valley roads and that will happen after the spring melt. Research into grants is being done for more rock to line problem ditches.
The next meeting of the Ellicottville Town Board will be March 18 at 6 p.m. at the Town/Village Hall.