Planners OK greenhouse site with stipulations

A greenhouse proposed by Confluent Energies, Inc. will be built on two vacant pieces of property owned by Arconic. To the west of the greenhouse is the village of Massena, and to the north is Massena International Airport. Screenshot

MASSENA — The St. Lawrence County Planning Board has signed off on a special use permit and site plan for a proposed greenhouse on County Route 42 in Massena, but with some stipulations.

Confluent Energies, Inc. plans to construct the greenhouse on two currently vacant pieces of property owned by Arconic on County Route 42.

St. Lawrence County Planner II Dakota B. Casserly told the Planning Board Thursday night that the project will be done in two phases. Phase one will include the construction of a 10-acre, 434,853-square-foot, high-tech greenhouse to grow leafy greens such as lettuce. He said phase two would be a duplication of phase one.

“The greenhouse will consist of three parts — the growing area, the headhouse for processing and mechanical, and admin office space,” he said. “Construction is planned for 2021 and operation to begin in 2022.”

Mr. Casserly said the greenhouse will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with a single shift during normal business hours. The inside will be lit using high-efficiency LEDs.

“After buildout, employment is estimated at about 50 full-time employees,” he said.

The building sites are away from state and federal wetlands located on the north part of the parcel, and the greenhouse will be built in an area where the soils that are present are not suited for cultivation.

“So that’s a pretty good location for this type of project, it seems,” he said.

Confluent Energies has proposed an area for tractor trailer parking, as well as a parking lot with 15 spaces. A storage pond will provide 100% of the company’s water needs.

The area is zoned as a general industrial district. However, the Massena Town Council amended the town’s zoning code to accommodate greenhouse operations such as the one proposed by Confluent Energies. The board 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.

The resolution to adopt the change was passed during the board’s March meeting.

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.

Among the conditions from the St. Lawrence County Planning Office were to provide new native vegetation plantings to offset forest removal; ensure the access road and parking area meet town regulations; provide additional egress/ingress points to meet the state’s Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code standards; coordinate a curb cut for the access road with the town’s Highway Department; submit a sign plan if applicable; submit a light plan to address artificial lighting; and submit a waste water management plan.

In addition, Confluent Energies will need to submit a completed Full Environmental Assessment Form. Mr. Casserly said the company has submitted the short form, but needs to submit a Full Environmental Asset Form because of the acreage involved with the project.

According to the Planning office, the Massachusetts-based Confluent Energies, Inc. has previously proposed the project in Ogdensburg and at another location in the town of Massena.

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