Councilors discuss solar arrays; parking garage
ROME — Updates were given on the progress of legislation being drafted concerning the construction of proposed solar array projects within the city and for a moratorium to be placed on such projects during Wednesday’s Common Council meeting held in chambers of City Hall.
Engineer Ed Browka, of Brown Road, asked during the public comment portion of the meeting if regulations have changed and if the public could have the opportunity to review changes in the city’s policies on the construction of solar arrays.
Back in April, an ordinance authorizing a 90-day moratorium extension with respect to the establishment and construction of solar arrays within the city was considered by the council.
The passing of Ordinance 9512 gave the Common Council authority to amend both the city Zoning Code when it’s deemed necessary to protect the health, welfare and safety of citizens and businesses or further the public interest, and to impose a moratorium where appropriate; and for the council to consider amendments to Rome City Code Chapter 80, “Zoning Code,” as it relates to the construction of solar arrays in the city.
First Ward Councilor John M. Sparace, Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers and Fifth Ward Councilor Frank R. Anderson had originally recommended a six-month moratorium be enacted on the establishment and construction of solar farms, or the issuance of any approvals or building permits.
Anderson then recommended a 90-day extension to the moratorium authorized under Ordinance 9477A, and adopted by the council on Oct. 13 of last year.
Prior to the approval of Ordinance 9477A in October, a public hearing on the ordinance was held where Browka and Attorney J. Kevin O’Shea, of Ironwood Drive, stated during public comments that it’s not that they don’t support green energy or solar developments, but that they should be constructed in commercial and industrial areas, not near anyone’s homes. They also noted that efforts should be made to ensure developers are held liable for any decommissioning costs associated with tearing down a solar farm once the panels have reached their end-of-life.
Back in August of 2021, O’Shea and several of his neighbors, led the charge before the city Zoning Board of Appeals, which decided unanimously to reject a request for an area variance by Turin Road Solar, LLC to build a proposed 31-acre solar array in a neighborhood off Ironwood Drive.
During councilor reports at Wednesday’s meeting, Councilor Rogers said a draft document of the proposed legislation, with proposed changes, was received by First Ward Councilor Sparace and Fifth Ward Councilor Anderson, and that the proposed document was also sent out to “interested people who have come in the past” to council meetings to voice their opposition and/or concerns about solar farm construction. Those interested parties included residents in the neighborhood surrounding Ironwood Drive, the site of last year’s proposed 31-acre solar array by Turin Road Solar, LLC.
“There have been several people” from that area “who brought up good points” during the drafting process, Rogers said. “Councilor Anderson also shared that (document) with some of them. We got some feedback from that and sent it off to the City Codes Department and Corporation Counsel, and a few others.”
She continued, “The Codes office is working on putting their comments in, and then the next step is to let everyone else on the council weigh in on it.”
Rogers ensured Browka she would send him a copy of the draft legislation so that he also had the opportunity to provide feedback. She said a draft would also be sent to the city Planning Board.
As for the proposed legislation, “It has some good modifications related to decommissioning, and potential modifications requiring a special use permit rather than they be ‘allowed use’ in some districts,” the councilor said. “All the changes are good, and this has been a great effort by all.”
Liberty-James Parking Garage
Legislation concerning the Liberty-James Parking Garage was also on he agenda. Resolution 73, which was unanimously approved, authorized City Treasurer David C. Nolan to set up separate capital project accounts and divide funds from a capital account previously authorized and established — Resolution No. 65A, approved on June 12, 2019 — allowing for the new capital project accounts and associated funding to be transferred from the $3,580,000 of Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds awarded as follows:
- James Street Parking Garage, $1,046,000
- City Hall, $1,280,000
- City Hall Green Space (Griffo Green), $400,000
- Way Finding Signage, $50,000
- Total transferred: $2,776,000
- The remaining $804,000 of funds in the original capital project account are to be spent for the Centro multi-modal transfer center.
Last month, Architect Steven Kushner, of Bergmann Architects, Engineers, Planners of Rochester, outlined four options for the city to take when it comes to the future of the downtown Liberty-James garage, built during the city’s urban renewal efforts in the 1970s and is now showing significant wear from its 50-plus years of existence.
But whatever plan the city chooses, Kushner told city officials and members of the Common Council they must act soon, considering the dangerous and deteriorated conditions of the garage.
Also, Kushner gave a presentation on proposed renovations to City Hall that include a 3,441 square-foot addition to the current building, as well as a new entrance-way and community room.
Similar to the Liberty James Garage project discussed during a walk-through and work session, $1.28 million in DRI funding would be used toward the project, and use of American Recovery Program Act monies is also being considered. Other sources of funding to include ARPA monies and bonding, would amount to $3.5 million.
Bergmann Associates presented a schematic design package for the proposed City Hall project to total approximately $4.69 million.
Meanwhile, Resolution 74 authorized Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Matthew Andrews to amend Resolution 102 of 2020 to reflect the following additional sources of funding:
• State DOS DRI/Construction: Original Amount $1,046,000; Revised Amount $1,046,000
• ARPA/Design-Construction: Original Amount $0; Revised Amount $3,454,000
That amounts to a total of $4,500,000.
Boyd and Kessinger dams
No one spoke during a public hearing held to authorize expenditures from the Repair Reserve Fund, specifically $259,500 for the Kessinger Dam engineering proposal and $320,000 for the Boyd Dam engineering assessment.
Resolution 71, authorizing the expenditure from the Repair Reserve Fund for use on the dams, was removed from the table and then approved.
“I’m happy to see this legislation come forth...It’s nice to see work is being done to set up both dams for the future,” said Councilor Anderson. “It’s good to see Rome taking a proactive approach to set up our water system for future generations.”
Other resolutions and ordinances unanimously approved:
• Resolution 72 accepting a donation presented to the city for a $1,747 expression swing to be installed at Haselton-Wright Park playground.
• Ordinance 9526 authorizing Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo to approve the sale of city-owned parcel 416 West St. to Jose Rivera for $600.
• Ordinance 9527 authorizing an amendment to Ordinance 9518 adopted May 11, to purchase a parcel, Sunset Lane, for $30,000, and an easement (Tank Road access) for $30,000. Councilor Anderson encouraged the passing of the ordinance to help progress the city’s North West Rome Water Expansion Project, with work on the water tank to begin shortly.
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