Granville Board of Zoning & Building Appeals
January 8, 2015
Call to Order: Mr. Gill called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Members Present: Kenneth Kemper, Larry Burge, Neal Zimmers and Jeff Gill.
Members Absent: Bradley Smith.
Also Present: Alison Terry, Planning Director and Michael King, Law Director
Visitors: Seth Patton, Art Chonko, Jeremy King, Susan King, Jamey King, Aaron VanOstran, Jamie Jankowski, Shawn Shaler, Kathy Williams, Rod Williams, Lucas-Miller Family, John Crecca, Jeff Zettler, Jim Neuenschwander, Bill Wilken, Andrew Morris, Stacey Morris, Tim Collins, Gill Miller, Kathy Standly, Dixon Miller, Tom Pendergast, Michael Boaz, Bret Stiltner, Barb Stiltner.
Citizen Comments: None.
Parcel numbers 020-051586-00.000, 020-051544-00.000 and 020-051608-00.000 - Seth Patton; Denison University - Application #2014-187 the property is zoned Institutional District (ID). The request is for conditional use review and approval of a photovoltaic energy facility (solar array) to provide solar energy to Denison University and its buildings.
Swearing in of Witnesses – During the course of the evening’s discussion Mr. Gill swore in the following individuals: Alison Terry, Seth Patton, Jeremy King, Art Chonko, Aaron VanOstran, Jamie Jankowski, Kathia (Kathy) Williams, Gill Wright Miller, Christopher Lucas-Miller, and Tim Collins.
Mr. Seth Patton, on behalf of Denison University, stated the request before the Board is for a Conditional Use to allow the University to install a solar array to provide solar energy to the campus. The proposed solar array will be located in an area to the east and north of the softball fields on a portion of the Denison Biological Reserve, which is currently vacant. Mr. Patton stated the University does not feel the proposed solar array will create a services burden, nor will it be a nuisance to, nor will it have an effect on neighboring property values. He further stated the point of access will be from North Pearl Street and will not contribute additional vehicular traffic. Mr. Patton expressed the University had been pro-active in addressing concerns of the neighboring property owners through the retention of Jobes-Henderson Engineering. The firm has been working with the University to develop vegetative screening to be installed between the array field and the neighboring properties.
Mr. Patton went on to read from a statement prepared by Jeremy King, Denison Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, “Denison University strives to be an exemplar steward of the natural world and a sustainability leader, supporting the wellbeing of the University, Granville and the world beyond. This project is one effort moving forward Denison’s aspiration to be carbon neutral by the year 2030. The University has made a decision to move away from coal based energy options and has ceased (stepped down) operations of the coal powered steam plant located on South Main Street. Bringing the proposed solar array on-line is a move toward the goal of diversifying energy providers to the college and managing peak electrical loads.’
Mr. Patton stated the University has given ample consideration to environmental considerations associated with the project by preserving and enhancing the current conditions. He further stated he felt the question and answer booklet provided by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to the Board members is comprehensive and supports the project and addresses concerns regarding protection of the environment.
Mr. Patton concluded his opening statement by offering that he would be happy to answer questions directly related to the project.
Mr. Zimmers stated he was appreciative of the additional supporting documentation.
Mr. Gill asked if there was any supporting testimony from witnesses that might speak to the basics of the equipment being installed and the impact on neighboring properties.
Mr. Chonko, on behalf of Denison University, 88 Spruce Drive, Granville, Ohio stated the proposed solar array would provide approximately 1.75 Megawatts of power to the University. He added that a number of public meetings had been held in an effort to carefully address neighboring property owner concerns. Denison has investigated using vegetation, berms, or some other landscaping to address visual concerns to neighboring property owners.
Mr. Gill inquired as to the University’s consideration of the vegetative buffer and soil berming between the array and homes along Welsh Hills Road; and the potential sound from the array as it relates to the neighboring homes.
Mr. Chonko stated brush buffering and soil berming will be added as needed to screen the project as it progresses. He added the sound from the array when near it, would be typical of being near any transformer.
Mr. Burge inquired as to the impact of the proposed array on the wildlife [within the Biological Reserve]
Mr. Chonko responded by saying the array will be fenced and there isn’t anticipation of much impact overall given the size of the Biological Reserve.
Jeremy King, 316 Welsh Hills Road, Granville, Ohio: stated he is employed by Denison University and is also a resident of the village adjacent to the proposed location of the solar array. Mr. King shared information addressing the questions of potential sound from the array by way of a discussion with Oberlin College. Oberlin College has an array similar and slightly larger than the proposed array and when asked about sound from the array, Oberlin responded by saying ‘What sound?’ Mr. King added that the transformer will produce an audible hum much like any transformer that can be heard when standing next to it; however as you move away from the transformer the noise becomes inaudible at approximately 150’. He indicated the location of the transformer on the displayed map and stated that it will be at one of the farthest possible locations from the neighboring properties. He further added the array panels will move approximately every 15 minutes to follow the sun. The sound generated from the movement will be intermittent and inaudible beyond 150’. Mr. King went on to address the concern of the project on wildlife and added that with projects of this size, environmental impact studies are conducted. Part of that environmental study is a biological assessment. He indicated that an environmental engineering firm was hired to conduct that work. According to their study there were no issues with endangered species, however the protected Indiana Bat could exist on site and their nesting habits will dictate when construction can occur. Mr. King went on to discuss and share photographic evidence of the existing vegetative border between specific neighboring properties including 493, 411 and 535 Welsh Hills Road, and the proposed location of the solar array. He discussed the intention was to retain as much of the existing vegetation as possible and to provide berming and additional planting as needed in order to provide sufficient screening of the array. The array itself will be at its tallest point approximately 8’ from the ground.
Gill Wright Miller, 411 Welsh Hills Road stated she and other adjacent property owners had prepared a statement (Refer to Exhibit ‘AA’) from which she was prepared to read on behalf of the group. Ms. Miller began reading read from Exhibit ‘AA’. After a brief period of time Mr. Gill reminded her to be certain her comments were relevant to the Conditional Use request before the Board.
Mr. Zimmers stated as I understand your testimony, Ms. Miller, you’re saying that this use is not classified as a conditional use. However, this particular section also contains language which states “accessory uses…to service an institution,” under Section 1169.02 (b)(2).
Ms. Miller stated that she did not, and proceeded to outline the neighbors’ objections to the project. She stated the neighbors were given inadequate time, insufficiently accurate mapping and supporting documentation to prepare a proper rebuttal; however the group has strong concerns regarding the sound generated by the array; the tendency of the areas topography to conduct/channel/funnel/amplify sound; the potential impact on wildlife within the proposed boundaries; and the potential economic impact on neighboring properties. Ms. Miller introduced Exhibits ‘A’- AEP Energy Project Update dated September 23, 2014 and Exhibit ‘B’ – Potential Arrays-Several Examples, into the record stating that these documents were the latest information the group had been given and since their creation, the proposed location of the array had changed.
Ms. Miller stated Oberlin’s project would not be a good comparison because of the difference in topography in the Granville area and because Oberlin’s facility is not near a residential neighborhood.
Ms. Miller raised the question as to whether the proposed solar array was a compatible use under the Institutional District.
Michael King, Village Law Director, stated yes, under Chapter 1169, Institutional District, 1169.02 (b) (2) Accessory Uses such as maintenance shops and storage areas to service an institution are customarily compatible with the proposed solar array.
Ms. Miller, inquired as to whether there was any research submitted that addresses the potential economic impacts on the modest neighboring property owners? She stated that it was her contention that Denison would not be placing the proposed array in this particular location if the homes surrounding it were of greater value. She asserted that the proposed project location amounts to class discrimination. She further stated that the University has not run studies nor not shared further supporting documentation after a neighborhood meeting held in October of 2014. She stated the University had promised to provide noise level simulations that have not taken place.
Mr. Burge, reminded Ms. Miller of the Oberlin Colleges’ response as to the question of sound from their solar array.
Ms. Miller, stated that the topography is this situation was different than that of the Oberlin installation and that Denison should provide for a simulation that would be specific to the proposed site including views from the neighboring properties toward the array, sound level simulations, wildlife impact, and vegetative buffer specifics – e.g. height, species, berming and maintenance of the buffer.
Mr. Chris Lucas-Miller, 595 Welsh Hills Road, offered descriptions of two white papers he felt were relevant to the proposed Conditional Use request and asked if they might be taken under the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals consideration.
Discussion took place as to their particular relevance to the request before the Board. Law Director King offered admission of the documents and cautioned that the Board could assign weight of Exhibit ‘D’ or any other exhibits.
Mr. Zimmers, pointed out to Mr. Lucas-Miller that the submitted evidence references a coal burning power plant. He indicated the Board is not considering the use of this property for a coal burning power plant, which makes this submitted evidence irrelevant.
The papers are attached to these minutes as Exhibit ‘C’ – Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions: Solar Siting and Sustainable Land Use; and Exhibit ‘D’ - Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley: The Effect of Power Plants on Local Housing Values and Rents, Lucas W. Davis, May 2010.
Kathy Williams, 469 Welsh Hills Road, stated her concern was for the potential impact the installation process (footings) would have on ground water and subsequently her wells production.
Law Director King, reminded the audience and Board members the focus of the proceedings are the five Conditional Use criteria that must be answered. He added that although possibilities of extenuating circumstances exist, the Board requires evidentiary testimony illustrating that the installation would pose a real threat.
Ms. Williams further stated she bought this property to be next to the Biological Reserve, not a solar installation.
Mr. Zimmers indicated this is still a biological reserve, it will just a have a solar array located in it too.
Mr. Gill offered a summary of the concerns as presented by the neighbors and redirected his questioning to Mr. Patton for the University’s response to those concerns. The issues and concerns raised most often by the neighboring property owners included: total acreage of the array and its’ location; management and augmentation of the existing vegetative buffer and proposed earth berming into the future; potential light pollution from the array if illuminated; disturbance of groundwater as the result of construction [e.g. footings]; impact of array on wildlife.
Mr. Patton, stated the location of the array has shifted to its’ present location as the result of the environmental impact study. He added the significant existing vegetation buffer between the project site and the neighboring properties will not be disturbed, rather, the approach is to add materials to it as needed to provide adequate screening. Plans to manage the earth berming include the installation of a mix of deciduous and evergreen materials. Any subsequent loss of berming plant material will be replaced to maintain the visual screening.
Mr. Gill asked how the buffer area will be maintained.
Mr. Patton stated the buffer area would be left in its natural state, but that Denison would be willing to commit to maintaining the visual barrier.
Mr. Gill asked the species of plants that would be added within the buffer area.
Mr. Patton indicated evergreen and deciduous.
A representative from AEP indicated the array would not be illuminated.
Aaron Van Ostran, on behalf of Jobes-Henderson and Associates, 55 Grant Street, Newark, Ohio 43056, stated the underground construction associated with the installation of support posts for the array should not have an impact on the water table as the posts are driven directly into the ground.
Mr. Burge inquired as to Mr. VanOstrans' involvement in the impact study.
Mr. Van Ostran indicated a staff biologist authored the impact study.
Mr. Gill inquired as to the Army Corp permitting process and the projects compliance.
Mr. VanOstran stated the project is in keeping with the Army Corps of Engineers requirements and is mindful of the streams, wetlands and Indiana Bat habitat that [may] exist within the project boundary. He added the trees which [may] provide nesting locations for the Indiana Bat will be felled out of season.
Mr. Chonko stated the projects boundaries had shifted from the original outline shown to neighboring property owners at the meeting on October 4th, 2014 as the result of the environmental impact study which indicated potentially archaeologically sensitive sites, causing the boundary to shift north and east from the original location.
Mr. Patton went on to state that one section of the Biological Reserve has a donor restriction, the “Norpell Section” which prohibits it from being developed. The portion of the Biological Reserve where the solar array is planned is not within that section and has no restrictions.
Mr. King stated that he would agree to an annual meeting with the neighbors to address any future concerns. He hopes this solar installation will be beneficial and that neighbors would be supportive of this project.
Mr. Gill questioned the ability of Denison to provide a simulation for the neighbors.
Mr. King stated this area is a “sound bowl” but he doesn’t think the neighbors will be able to hear any noise over the traffic noise generated from Welsh Hills Road.
Mr. Kemper asked how Denison and AEP came up with the number of panels proposed, size, acreage, etc.
Jamie Jankowski, 155 W. Nationwide Boulevard, Columbus, Ohio, AEP Energy Representative, stated AEP looked at Denison’s electrical usage and then determined the acreage for a solar array in order to provide the needed power to the University.
Mr. Kemper asked if ecological compliance had been completed.
Mr. Jankowski stated the siting resources and the studies required by the various regulatory bodies have been completed. The environmental surveys have been signed off on. The panel locations were modified directly as a result of the environmental study.
Mr. Burge asked what percentage of need will this contribute.
Mr. Jankowski indicated fifteen percent total annual capacity with fifty percent at the peak of summer. The solar array and fencing will also be located a minimum distance of one hundred fifty feet from any residential property lines.
Mr. Burge asked the concerned parties if the additional information provided by Denison made any difference or clarified concerns raised by the neighboring property owners.
Ms. Miller stated that Denison had only shared intentions not any clarification. She cited information contained on page 7 from Exhibit “AA.” She stated more efficient panels could be installed and less land area would be used as a result.
Tim Collins, 535 Welsh Hills Road, inquired as to why a study wasn’t done that addressed the affect this project could have on neighboring residential properties.
Mr. Gill asked for clarification from Mr. Collins on this question.
Mr. Collins indicated that environmental studies were done that dealt with specific site issues but wanted to know why a study wasn’t done regarding the effect of this proposed project on property values in the area.
Mr. Gill asked Denison to address this question.
Mr. Patton stated Denison doesn’t know if this project will affect area property values, either as the existing Biological Reserve or as a solar array.
Mr. Gill called for a discussion and review of the criteria for Conditional Uses by the Board.
Section 1145.03, Criteria for Approval:
The Board of Zoning and Building Appeals shall make the following determinations with respect to an application for a conditional use permit:
(a) The proposed use is a conditional use with the zoning district and the applicable development standards of this Zoning Ordinance are met. The proposed use is a conditional use within this Zoning District and does meet with the applicable development standards as outlined in the Staff Report. Mr. Zimmers stated TRUE; he agrees that the proposed conditional uses meets the use standard category of “Accessory uses such as maintenance shops and storage areas to service an institution”, as indicated in Section 1169.02(b)(e) of the Zoning Code and outlined in the Staff Report. All other BZBA members concurred with Mr. Zimmers.
(b) The proposed use is in accordance with all current land use and transportation plans for the area and is compatible with any existing land use on the same parcel. The Village of Granville & Granville Township Joint Comprehensive Plan, July 18, 2012 shows this area as “Institutional” in the Future Land Use Plan. Under Section V. Economic/Development Policy and Strategy Recommendations, 2) Business Development, k) it states “Minimize the visibility of telecommunication, utility, and energy generation technologies to behind buildings where possible.” The applicants are proposing the location of this energy facility in a wooded area within the Denison Biological Reserve. It will be located on the back portion of the physical plant property on interior parcels with little to no frontage onto Welsh Hills Road.
Mr. Zimmers stated TRUE; it’s still a biological reserve and institutional property, even with the development of solar array, therefore it does meet this criteria. All other BZBA members concurred with Mr. Zimmers.
(c) The proposed use will not create an undue burden on public facilities and services such as streets, utilities, schools and refuse disposal. The property is currently vacant land. Changing a portion of the property to a solar array will not create an undue burden on public facilities and services. Mr. Burge stated FALSE; it will not create an undue burden on public facilities and services. All other BZBA members concurred with Mr. Burge.
(d) The proposed use will not be detrimental or disturbing to existing neighboring uses, and will not entail a use, structure or condition of operation that constitutes a nuisance or hazard to any persons or property. The applicant has indicated there will be little to no noise from the operation of this proposed solar array facility, except close to the energy storage system battery and inverters. Mr. Burge stated FALSE; Mr. Gill and Mr. Zimmers concurred with Mr. Burge. Mr. Kemper stated TRUE; he does not think enough information was presented in order to make a determination on this criteria.
(e) The proposed use will not significantly diminish or impair established property values within the surrounding areas. Mr. Zimmers stated it was a personal judgment in this case, and that there was insufficient evidence presented to allow the Board members to come to a conclusion related to this criteria. Further, Mr. Zimmers stated there was no credible evidence to indicate there would be any negative impact on the adjacent properties. All other BZBA members concurred with Mr. Zimmers.
Mr. Gill asked Denison if they would be agreeable to a condition of approval regarding the long-term maintenance of the landscape area.
Mr. Patton indicated Denison would be agreeable to this condition.
Mr. Zimmers indicated he thinks Denison should meet with the neighbors at least once following the completion of the project to ensure the landscape buffer area is sufficiently installed and screens the neighboring properties. He doesn’t think Denison should be required to hold an annual meeting with the neighbors.
Mr. Patton indicated he would appreciate the Board not imposing an annual meeting in perpetuity.
Ms. Miller suggested an annual meeting with the neighbors for the first ten years after the project is completed.
Mr. Gill discussed having an annual meeting with the neighbors for at least the first five years after installation of the solar project. He suggested this should be included as a condition of approval.
Mr. Kemper made a motion to approve Application #2014-187, as submitted, with the condition that a fifty (50’) foot rehabilitated, vegetative landscape buffer be installed to further protect the 1 percent annual chance flood areas from any potential runoff impacts caused by development of the site, to further strengthen this floodplain corridor and to provide screening from the solar array area to the neighboring residential properties. (Boundary to be as delineated on the map “Denison Solar Array – Conditional Use Request (with distance to homes and floodplain)”) This condition shall be placed on this application as allowed in Section 1145.04(c), additional conditions permitted to be imposed by the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals; and with the condition that Denison commit to an annual meeting, to discuss and address issues and concerns with the solar installation and landscape buffering, with the neighboring property owners for a total of five years. Second by Mr. Burge. Roll Call Vote: Burge (yes), Kemper (yes), Zimmers (yes) and Gill (yes). Motion carried 4-0.
Findings of Fact
Denison University - 020-051586-00.000, 020-051544-00.000 and 020-051608-00.000 - Application #2014-187 Approve Findings of Fact and Associated Standards and Criteria.
The Board of Zoning & Building Appeals found the request to be consistent with The Granville Codified Ordinances Chapter 1145, Conditional Uses, Chapter 1169, Institutional District and hereby gives their approval of Application #2014-187, with conditions.
Mr. Kemper moved to approve the Findings of Fact for Application #2014-187. Second by Mr. Burge. Roll Call Vote: Zimmers (yes), Burge (yes), Kemper (yes) and Gill (yes). Motion carried 4-0.
Motion to Approve Absence of Board of Zoning and Building Appeals Member:
Mr. Kemper made a motion to approve the absence of Brad Smith. Second by Mr. Burge. Roll Call Vote: Burge (yes), Kemper (yes), Zimmers (yes) and Gill (yes). Motion carried 4-0.
Motion to Approve Meeting Minutes:
Mr. Kemper made a motion to approve the BZBA meeting minutes for November 13, 2014. Second by Mr. Burge. Roll Call Vote: Kemper (yes), Zimmers (yes), Burge (yes) and Gill (yes). Motion carried 4-0.
Motion to Approve Meeting Schedule for 2015:
Mr. Kemper made a motion to approve the BZBA meeting schedule for 2015. Second by Mr. Burge. Roll Call Vote: Kemper (yes), Zimmers (yes), Burge (yes) and Gill (yes). Motion carried 4-0.
Motion to Adjourn
Mr. Zimmers made a motion to adjourn. Second by Mr. Kemper. Motion carried 4-0.
The meeting adjourned at 8:56 PM.
February 12, 2015
March 12, 2015
April 9, 2015