Pine Plains: Solar, Stewart’s, cannabis dominate May 10 meeting

PINE PLAINS —  At the Pine Plains Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, May 10, the Carson Power solar project proposed for 454 Bean River Road made significant headway. The board also considered an application for the expansion of the Pine Plains Stewart’s Shops location, and scrutinized the proposed cannabis manufacturing project.

Carson Power representative Andrew Gordon and Matthew Allen of Saratoga Associates gave a presentation of a number of items requested from the board. Included among them was a proposal to convert the forests set to be felled by the project into 57,000 board feet of lumber, the estimated $11,000 value of which would go directly to the town. This would avoid a requirement to pursue a timber permit.

Allen also gave a detailed visual presentation of the viewshed impact that the proposed project would have on homeowners in the region, and used comprehensive 3D modeling to present the board with a realistic portrait of what the solar panels would look like from 13 different locations throughout the area.

The board indicated that the presentation had gone a long way to provide the full range of information the members need to make their State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) evaluation, which will either send the proposal to the town board, or further delay the application.

Having received a determination from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that the proposed project would have “no impact” on box turtle and Northern long-eared bat populations, all that remains for Carson Power and the planning board is to receive word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on habitat impact.

According to Frank Fish, a consultant to the Board from BFJ Planners, pending that information and the creation of an application appendix that includes Allen’s visual presentation, “the record is nearly complete” on the application. The board will hold a final public hearing for the project on Saturday, June 10, at 10:30 a.m. at the Pine Plains Free Library. 7775 S. Main St.

A long and heated discussion of the CEEN Properties change of use application ensued, which would see the former dairy barn at 2775 Church St. used, in part, for dry goods cannabis manufacturing. A prolonged back-and-forth between the board, town attorney Warren Replansky and Wesley Chase, who was representing the applicants, revolved around the incomplete state of the application, the confusing approval process from the nascent Office of Cannabis Management, and the convoluted nature of the ownership of the involved businesses.

A public hearing was set for the project on Wednesday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pine Plains Town Hall, 3284 Route 199.

The board also granted a request from the Stissing Center (TSC) to extend the use of a temporary roof the building has in place while it prepares for renovations. Executive Director Brett Bernardini and Doug Larson, lead architect on the TSC’s renovations and director of architecture and design at Larson Architecture Works, provided a comprehensive site plan update for the renovations, which the board approved in 2016, and received updates on in 2018 and 2022.

The project is set to begin in September or October, and will take an estimated nine to 12 months to complete (see the “Stissing Center renovation in the works” from the March 30 edition of the Millerton News for more details).

As the last item of business, the board began consideration of an application from Stewart’s Shops for the proposed construction of a 4,000 square-foot store at the current Pine Plains Stewart’s location. Stewart’s was granted a setback variance for the project from the town’s zoning board of appeals on April 24, though the official resolution has not yet been accepted.

At the request of the board, Stewart’s will provide the board with the alternative site plans it developed that would comply with Pine Plains’ 2019 Comprehensive Plan. Planning board Chairman Michael Stabile made note of the fact that Stewart’s had received approval for purchase of additional land from the planning board last year under the explicit understanding that it had no plans to expand its store.

Stabile indicated that if Stewart’s had been more upfront with its plans, the board might have been able to advise the company more thoroughly.

Additional updates and discussion of the Stewart’s expansion will occur at the board’s next meeting on Wednesday, June 21.

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