Berlin’s Sustainable Aquafarm Draws Some Complaints And Concerns From Neighbors Of The Facility
By Doug La Rocque
Berlin Town Supervisor Rob Jaeger, at the Thursday February 9 meeting of the Town Board, said the proposed changes to the 1988 Land Use Regulations brought forth at last month’s workshop meeting by SAF CEO and President Michael Pasternak have been received and sent on to the engineering firm of Clough, Harbour & Associates.[private] They are the consultants hired by the town, but paid for by SAF, to review the project at the former Seagroatt’s Roses site. Jaeger said the proposed changes are more of a revision than an outright change. SAF says the revisions are needed to accommodate their planned expansion of the facility.
While it may have been roses that were once grown there instead of today’s crop of hydroponic lettuce and soon to be fish, some of the neighbors along Satterlee Hollow Road told the Board, not all is rosy. Leila Derstine says the glow emanating from the lower greenhouses is a form of light pollution. “We can actually see that lovely magenta haze from our house and it enters our bedroom windows at night, and it’s unsightly, honestly.” She and her husband bought the land about a year and a half ago, and she said they were drawn to the property because of its natural setting and to be able to go out and enjoy the dark sky. Town Board member Steve Riccardi is part of SAF’s management team. He told the Derstines that future construction of additional greenhouses would have at least two to three blankets as part of the structure to refocus the light back onto the plants. As to the current structures however, their existing design make such retro fitting a difficult if not impossible task. He did say they like to be good neighbors, “and what you just said, I’m concerned about it. And I will bring it around to the investors to see if there is possibly something we can do.” Derstine said “it’s the same environmental issue as PFOAs that we are talking about down the street. It’s just in the sky instead of the water.” She said it’s an environmental impact, and that studies have shown that when light is introduced into what should be dark sky, it impacts both animals and other life forms. The Derstines also made it clear they understand the economic benefits of the facility and that they are supporters of sustainable farming. Dennis Farina told the Board he was speaking for himself and four other neighbors, when he complained about trucks blocking the roadway, and employees cars parked along the side of Satterlee Hollow Rd. He said these are major concerns “and we have reached a limit. We want to know when aquafarm is going to have an employee parking lot. We want to know when Aquafarm is going to have a receiving and delivery section off the road. Right now from Route 22 to the bridge, we have lost two lanes, it is down to one.” He called the situation a hindrance to emergency vehicles and an accident waiting to happen. Farina cited two instances for the Board in which he claims there were near collisions. He also expressed concern about the plans to drill 100 wells on the site, fearing they would deplete the aquifer. Riccardi told those concerned, including Board members, “those are not wells, they are called borings and they are for geothermal. They are all encased and closed, and there is no water coming out of those guys.” They are for heat transfer to warm the facility. As to the parking. Riccardi said a parking lot has been cleared for the employee’s cars, and a new delivery dock away from the road is under construction and he will see to it that trucks no longer block the roadway. It must be noted that Riccardi prefaced his remarks as coming as a member of the SAF team, and not in his role as a Town Board member. He has recused himself from all Town dealings with the project.
The bridge on Satterlee Hollow is a concern raised by SAF CEO Michael Pasternak, as something that would not be able to accommodate the amount of commercial traffic anticipated on the road. He asked that the Town look into where it might stand on the list for federal funding to replace it. It has been determined the bridge is not on any list, and now the Town will look toward state funded projects. The SAF Corporation has said they will cover the Town’s share of the cost of the bridge replacement.
A Rough Winter On Highway Equipment
Given the ease of last winter, the town’s vehicles came through the year pretty well. Mother Nature has not been so kind this year, and Highway Superintendent Jim Winn says they have had their share of breakdowns. His biggest problem is one of his smaller trucks, one that they have sunk $30,000 in repairs into, and it continues to have problems, the latest being a tire that came off the vehicle while plowing snow. Winn said he has the money left over from last year’s budget to replace it and asked the Board to consider an emergency purchase or lease. Supervisor Jaeger called it a health and safety threat. The Board asked Winn to come back to them with proposals in time for their workshop meeting in two weeks. In his role as Water District 2 Superintendent, Winn said work on installing a carbon filtration system on the village water supply is progressing, with plans to put 6 containers at the pump house site to hold these filters.
Transferring Ownership Of The Watipi Building
The Board was also in receipt of a letter from the Taconic Valley American Legion, asking that Berlin transfer the old rail station known as the Watipi Building to the post. The transfer has been in discussion for many months, and the post asks the Town to move forward at the earliest possible time, to ensure Legion members have the ability to make the appropriate upgrades and repairs in time for this year’s events. In the letter, Commander Chris Lecce says “it is the desire of Taconic Valley Post 937 to create a general meeting place for our area veterans as well as other town groups and organizations.” To complete the transfer, the Board would have to introduce a local law and hold a public hearing before voting on the transfer. It would also be subsequent to a permissive refendum, if enough signatures could be gathered on such a petition.
The Board accepted two proposals to provide sand and gravel, one from the Hammersmith Mine Company in the Town of Berlin, and the other from Rifenburg Construction of Brunswick, which operates a gravel mine in West Sand Lake. Accepting both proposals gives the Town some flexibility as to the nature of the product needed and its availability.
Codes Enforcement Officer Allen Yerton told the Board plans are moving forward for the Dollar General store on Route 22. Dog Control Officer Doug Goodermote was given permission to hold a dog and cat rabies clinic this spring and the Zoning Board of Appeals is still looking for another member. Town Clerk Anne Maxon reported state, county and local revenues of $4,403.50 and non-local revenues of $708.96. [/private]