National Grid Substation Proposal on Van Dyke Road
National Grid has proposed to construct a new electrical substation along Van Dyke Road in the Town of Bethlehem. Given high public interest, we want to ensure people have the information they need on the proposal and the review process, and accordingly a special town webpage has been established for this purpose (see link at left).
The National Grid proposal is currently before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which is an independent quasi-judicial decision making board that all towns in New York State are required to have. The project requires a use variance, and as prescribed by state law, the ZBA must accept all legally made applications for review; they do not have discretionary power to choose which applications will be considered. The ZBA also must make its decisions based upon the standards set by NYS statute for variances. Since the National Grid project involves a public utility, the review will differ somewhat from a typical use variance. In public utility reviews (including electric, gas, telephone and wireless facilities) the ZBA is guided by standards defined by case law, under which utilities are presumed to be operating in the public interest, and entitled to variances upon a showing that (1) the variance is needed in order for the company to provide safe and adequate service to the public; and (2) there are “compelling reasons, economic or otherwise” for needing the variance. In this case, National Grid needs to demonstrate to the ZBA’s satisfaction that there are no feasible alternative locations for its substation.
The Zoning Board of Appeals has the final decision for the Town on National Grid’s variance request(s); they are seeking both use and area variances for the proposed substation (the area variances relate to the height of the proposed fence and lighting). Depending on the outcome at the ZBA, the Planning Board would be responsible for a site plan review. The Town Board itself does not have a role in these decisions, however, the decisions of either of these boards (Planning or ZBA) can be appealed to the Courts.
The ZBA began its public hearing on November 5, 2014, with another hearing session March 4, 2015, and the hearing has been left open which will provide additional opportunity for public comment. While the next hearing date has not yet been established, it will be posted on the ZBA agenda and there will also be a community news item on it (you might consider using the ‘Notify Me’ section of the town website to get copies of the ZBA's meeting agendas sent to you prior to the meetings). Moreover, if you are unable to attend the extended hearing or otherwise wish to provide written comments, you can submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org (ZBA Secretary Kathleen Reid).
At its meeting of March 4, the ZBA also voted to hire a consultant to assist with the process of evaluating the proposal, to be hired at National Grid’s expense. The substation proposed would be a 115-13.2 kilovolt, two transformer bank installation on land owned by National Grid (109 Van Dyke Road), adjacent to the existing New Scotland – Bethlehem #4 115-kilovolt transmission line. National Grid’s application and a variety of materials on the project plans can be found on the town's meetings portal.