By Karen Carr Keefe
The Town Board on Monday set in motion plans to finalize amendments to its 2017 solar law through a series of special workshop meetings scheduled for June. The goal is to hold a public hearing, then vote on the amended law at its regular July 19 Town Board meeting.
On Jan. 19, the town imposed a six-month moratorium on further development of solar farms to allow time to research possible revisions. The board, residents and some businesses had expressed dissatisfaction with existing solar farms they say have not met expectations, especially with regard to required landscaping features – such as berms and pollinators – that would improve aesthetics for nearby residents and businesses.
Also during its Monday workshop meeting, the board worked with the Agricultural Advisory Board to fine-tune aspects of the right-to-farm law as it applies to farming on Grand Island. Advisory Board members Wendy Salvati and Sheila Daminski reviewed language in the law regarding selling agricultural products on the property where grown and resolving any disputes that arise in a timely fashion.
Golden Age Center Safety Plan
Golden Age Center Director Jennifer Menter discussed the COVID-19 safety plan for seniors with Town Board members. It was decided that, due to CDC relaxing social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, changes could be made to ease dining room spacing for senior lunches and to allow participants in outdoor exercise classes to go without masks.
Strategic Planning Commission
Jim Sharpe discussed the need for strategic planning to rank as a commission of town government, rather than a board, to assist the Town Board in important functions such as master plan update, long-range and strategic planning and policy development.
Hiring for Town Departments
At the regular Town Board session at 8 p.m., the board approved part-time and seasonal hiring and status and rate changes for the Recreation Department and the parks maintenance crew.
Also, a special use permit renewal was issued to Arlene Clark for a home occupation/barber shop at 3059 Second Ave. A special use permit renewal and an application were referred to the Planning Board and to set a public hearing for Monday, June 7, for:
•Permit renewal: for Northpoint Vantage, 2420 Love Road, an embroidery, silk screening, fabric and sports apparel home occupation.
•Permit application: for January Vaughn, 2488 Grand Island Blvd., for dog boarding and kennels.
In other business, the Town Board:
•Authorized Supervisor John Whitney to sign a professional services agreement for a change request for Town Hall HVAC upgrades and asbestos abatement in the amended amount of $3,395.63.
Proclamations were issued in honor of Older Americans Month, VFW Buddy Poppy Days and congratulating Grand Islander Betty Marinell on her 100th birthday.
From May 27-29, the Veterans of Foreign Wars will distribute Buddy Poppies in honor of and in memory of veterans who have risked their lives in defense of American freedoms. The distribution is a fundraiser to help widows and orphans of deceased veterans and helps disabled and needy veterans who live at the National Home in Eaton Rapids, Michigan.
Betty Marinell and her husband, Frank, raised their four children on Grand Island. Betty was an active member of the Women’s Club at Trinity United Methodist Church and has been active for 38 years in events and classes at the Golden Age Center.
More Town Board News
During the public comment section for non-agenda items there were two people who spoke about issues that were high on their list of priorities.
•Christian Buerk addressed the board on an ongoing concern over being required to put $5,000 of his money in escrow to the town for constructing a sidewalk on his property while other neighbors in his subdivision along East River Road hadn’t been required to do so. He also pointed to the perceived inconsistencies in town policy at the May 3 meeting.
Last time, Buerk was told by the Town Board that errors of the past were responsible for what looks like inconsistencies to him. This time, the answer to his complaint was more favorable, with Whitney saying the town will research the matter and try to come up with a solution.
“That is something we need to work on as a board. It is an outstanding issue that I very firmly believe needs to be addressed,” Whitney said.
•Jenn Pusatier spoke passionately about another chapter in the Tonawanda Coke saga coming to a close with the planned demolition of three smoke stacks of the closed company’s structure, at 6 a.m. Saturday, June 5.
“Those ugly reminders in our skyline will be gone,” she said.
Tonawanda Coke was forced to shut down in October 2018 when it was determined the company violated the federal Clean Air Act and other laws by polluting surrounding communities, including Grand Island, with toxic emissions from its stacks.
A developer is now working to remediate the site with a plan to turn it into a computer data center.
Pusatier said that, in 2002, she and her friend, fellow environmentalist Jackie James-Creedon of Kenmore, were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a neuromuscular disorder that would bring them together to fight what she called “a Goliath polluter in our environment.”
“Tonawanda Coke Corp. had been polluting our air and river for years without any regard to health and safety of its workers and outlying communities,” she said. “Two women believed they may be sick because of their environment.”
Her friend and several others began collecting air samples that helped bring attention to benzene pollution by the company, and its consequences. Environmentalists in the group Citizen Science Community Resources brought suit against the company in U.S. District Court, and Tonawanda Coke was found guilty of violating 14 environmental laws.
Solar Law Amendment Meetings