Hydroponic greenhouse plans remain afloat

Photo by Mark Stebnicki from Pexels

MASSENA — Plans to build a hydroponic greenhouse in the town of Massena are still on the table.

Confluent Energies, Inc. will present its plan to the town’s Planning Board on Thursday.

The Massena Town Council held a public hearing last year to add greenhouses to permissible operations in an industrial zone. The change was made so those types of operations would not need to seek a variance from the town’s Zoning Board.

Although they held a public hearing, Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy told council members on Wednesday that they had never officially passed a resolution allowing the change to the zoning code.

“Over a year ago we had proposed an amendment to the zoning code to add greenhouses as a permissible operation in an industrial zone. We had a public hearing and we had everything written up. The only thing that we are unable to find is that the Town Board ever passed that resolution,” he said.

The board passed the resolution during Wednesday’s meeting, meaning that Confluent Energies will not need to seek a variance from the town Zoning Board to establish the greenhouse in the industrial zone.

According to the town code, the I General Industrial Zone is currently “intended to provide for areas in the Town which industrial, manufacturing or other materials handling, processing and/or storage activities may take place with maximum economic and environmental feasibility and with minimum negative impact on residential, agricultural and commercial development.”

Uses that require site plan approval are manufacturing, assembling, converting, altering, finishing, cleaning, recycling or any other processing and incidental storage of products and materials; wholesaling, storage and warehousing; junkyards and dismantlers; research laboratories; truck and rail terminals and port facilities, including docking, fueling, loading and unloading; signs; waste storage and/or treatment facilities; and adult uses.

Confluent Energies, Inc., a Massachusetts-based firm, plans to build a hydroponic greenhouse on 40 acres of Arconic property. The company plans to use four 10-acre plots for the project and had received 16 megawatts of low-cost hydropower from the New York Power Authority.

The four-phase project would allow the company to produce leafy green vegetables, particularly lettuce, on a year-round basis. The product would be delivered by the partner distributor of Confluence Energies, Inc. to a market area located within a 24-hour driving radius of Massena to ensure product quality. The first phase of the project was scheduled to begin in 2020, but was put on hold with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the company’s website, Confluent Energies, Inc. is principally focused on “developing and operating Advanced Technology Greenhouses (“ATG”) as the centerpiece of Phase III biorefineries.” Depending on the location, the energy to power and operate the biorefineries can come from several clean, renewable, recyclable sources such as cellulosic biomass, wind, solar, hydro, landfill gases.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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