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IN OFFICE

WINTER 2018

Topics and Trends for Municipal Leaders

meeting minutes

Considering Solar

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Solar Ordinances Fall to Local Government Controlling the Message: Stakeholder Engagement Services

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Celebrating the Arrival of a New Train Station

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Snowmelt Systems Make Safety Automatic

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Experts in Waste and Recycling Join the Team

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In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

“PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST.”

IN OFFICE THIS WINTER As you can read about in the sidebar at right, LaBella launched a new brand identity in January. Part of our process was to spend time determining who we are as a company and what we want our brand to stand for. Then, we developed a plan to share our new message with LaBella stakeholders. As with any change affecting a large constituency, our best management tool has been communication. In this issue, similar themes emerged. Our feature article on the importance of developing a solar ordinance speaks to the value of definining who we are and what we want to be. Then, our services in stakeholder engagement presents a systematic way to proactively share messages and manage change in our communities. Certainly, this management is easier with a team of experts by your side. In Office is a semi-annual publication that presents our experience, our expertise, and our forecasting on the topics and trends that affect municipal projects. Let us know if there’s a topic we can explore for you by contacting us at inoffice@labellapc.com.

LaBella Celebrates 40th Anniversary in 2018 With New Brand LaBella marked 40 years in business the best way we know how: with a new design. We celebrated the arrival of 2018 and our 40th anniversary with the release of a new brand. The new tagline “powered by partnership” was selected to build on our long-time emphasis on relationships. As part of an 18 month process, we worked with a consultant to conduct both internal and external interviews. The feedback we received validated our belief that partnership skills (communication, reliability, accountability) are where we shine. We don’t measure success only by a project’s end result. We also value the process of getting there. When partnerships form as a result of that process, our clients receive a more valuable end product. While the tagline speaks to partnership with our clients, and the many ways it drives our success, it also emphasizes to our firm’s commitment to employee partnership and community partnership. LaBella is a full-service firm, bringing nine distinct professional practice areas under one roof, with a long list of specialties within each. We take professionals with diverse skill sets and task them to work together in partnership to solve complex challenges. Outside of the office, we work together to benefit others, through tangible community partnerships. As our diverse service list expands, we’ve reorganized our practice into 4 areas: buildings, infrastructure, environmental, and energy. Check out our redesigned website today (including a publications page where you can find In Office) at labellapc.com.


In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

interim remedial action, including the removal of several underground storage tanks.

Brownfields

Repurposing through Partnership

Pike’s plan to demolish and manage the site enabled the NYSDEC to plan for a more complete cleanup of soil and groundwater. The preliminary remedial action plan was issued for public comment in December 2016 and a final Site Record of Decision in February 2017.

LaBella was recently part of an innovative municipal brownfield approach that enabled the redevelopment of an abandoned dry cleaner. By Mark Gregor Vacant, abandoned brownfield properties—a sight all too familiar for many communities. When commercial or industrial properties are neglected, they often have dangerous environmental contaminants that impair the value of the property and complicate development. These sites are called brownfields. Although municipalities struggle with limited available resources to take ownership and control of them, it’s important to find solutions in order to prevent environmental detriment and protect public health. LaBella recently partnered with the City of Rochester in an innovative approach to transfer a tax-delinquent brownfield property into productive new ownership. Through a unique effort between the City, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and an adjoining property owner, the brownfield site has been tested and demolished, is already being

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reused, and is slated for state-funded cleanup. The adjacent owner, Pike Construction, needed to expand as a result of a growing business. As part of the partnership, they paid for asbestos abatement and building demolition while the NYSDEC will fund and perform soil and groundwater cleanup. After the City secured access through a temporary incidence of ownership, LaBella performed site inspection, asbestos survey, and hazardous building material inventory and inspection. The brownfield property, a former dry cleaner site that had been abandoned since 2007, underwent grant-funded environmental investigations that identified significant perchloroethylene (PERC) contamination of soil and groundwater. These conditions were reported to the NYSDEC, which addressed the site by completing further investigations as well as

In March 2017, the City scheduled an auction of the property for back taxes. At the City’s initiation the Rochester Land Bank Corporation (RLBC) entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Pike Construction. The RLBC acquired the dry cleaner property at auction and subsequently transferred it to Pike, who completed asbestos abatement and demolition by July 2017 and immediately began using the site for needed parking. The NYSDEC cleanup phase is ongoing and will require close coordination with Pike. Although significant environmental and legal staff time was required, the City’s site assessment costs were less than $10,000. continued page 10

After the City secured access through a temporary incidence of ownership, LaBella performed site inspection, asbestos survey, and hazardous building material inventory and inspection.

Though significant environmental and legal staff time was required, the City’s site assessment costs were less than $10,000. The City also used $18,920 in United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) brownfield grants for eligible site assessment activities.


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In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

Feature

Considering Solar Rapid solar development presents municipalities with new and important considerations.

Eyesores that ruin fields and woodlands, or an opportunity to produce renewable, decentralized energy? Ten years ago, maybe the choice would have been clearer. As the result of benefit and incentive programs from New York State, the solar industry has taken on an entirely new set of advantages and considerations. Today, municipalities have some important decisions to make—and it’s not as simple as whether you’re pro- or anti-solar. Throughout the last fifteen years, solar development has skyrocketed around the US. As each state adopted its own laws in response to the growth, New York has seen the largest surge in the country—twice the national rate, according to the City University of New York (CUNY). As a result of New York’s incentive program, dubbed NY-Sun, the Empire State was home to 800% more solar energy in 2016 than in 2011. NY-Sun is unique in that it doesn’t mandate solar onto any community, reflecting the New Yorkers’ varied opinions on the technology. It does, however, support the endeavor for those who seek it. Ironically, it’s NY-Sun’s flexibility that has made it so successful.

Indicative of the state’s diverse array of geography, industry, and politics, New York State’s government decided that solar policy should fall on the shoulders of local leaders. But whether your community wants to embrace solar energy or keep it at bay, it’s important to specify your community’s wishes through a solar ordinance or local law. By adopting local regulations, you can apply for tax programs and earn state credit, or prevent landowners from installing large solar farms in agricultural or historic districts. Either way, developing a solar ordinance will benefit your community. Solar energy systems fit into one of two general categories: Roofmounted panels that supplement

But whether your community wants to embrace solar energy or keep it at bay, it’s important to specify your community’s wishes through a solar ordinance or local law.


In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

individual buildings, and large-scale solar farms that power substantial areas. Roof-mounted systems are typically permitted in all zoning districts, and restrictions like height, setback, and aesthetic factors are outlined individually within each district. These small projects typically offset energy costs but don’t make a profit. Large-scale solar energy systems, or “solar farms,” are a different story. They can accrue capital, and there’s a more complex process involved in their approval. Solar farms across the state have been subject to site plan review and have frequently been placed before the municipal zoning board of appeals for a special or conditional use permit, use variance, or a combination thereof. Solar developers have found themselves in front of not one, but two or three boards and multiple public hearings prior to obtaining building permits. Developers may complain that there is no streamlined process for obtaining approvals, but municipalities find themselves in a catch-22. Do they categorize a solar farm as a permitted use under the existing zoning code, or prohibit them because they are not clearly listed as a permitted use? Or, do they issue a moratorium on solar farms until a new code is developed? One thing is certain—none of these options satisfies all involved parties. And Municipalities have to determine their community’s balance between the benefits of alternative energy and the environmental impact of the construction of solar farms.

though a solar ordinance or local law can clearly outline the path for developers in your community (or heavily regulate it to discourage solar development), it’s critical to understand the various benefits and complex considerations that come with solar power. Kathy Spencer, one of LaBella’s environmental impact experts, laid out some of the reasons investing in solar is a different consideration for every community. “One of my first exposures to it was a project that involved clearing more than forty acres of woodland,” she says. “From the environmental review perspective, the thought of cutting down a woodland to put up solar panels gave me pause.” She called the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to inquire about regulations on clearing wooded areas for solar development, but no such prohibitions exist. “There aren’t really regulations that would encourage developers to find a space that’s already cleared,” she says. “Not that trees don’t grow back—they do. But how is the state going to walk that line?” And how does the state walk that line? By empowering local governments to decide which policies work for their community. “Municipalities have to find a balance between: what are the benefits from

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an alternative energy standpoint,” Kathy says, “versus what’s going to happen to the environment from the construction—and possible clearing of the land—for these solar panels?” While some municipalities may have undeveloped, rolling hills or open spaces which they’re eager to fit with solar panels, other communities value every acre of agricultural land in their district. “Agricultural and historic districts are prioritized,” weighs Kathy, “so it’s an important consideration.” Even then, however, it’s not as simple as it used to be—as technology has progressed, solar fields have become less invasive and are no longer considered a permanent alteration to land, like building a mall or a parking lot would be. In fact, according to LaBella engineer Steve Longway, installation of a solar system doesn’t even tear up the grass. “Original solar farms of the 1970s had big concrete bases,” he says. “They were pretty invasive. Now, everyone is going to non-invasive installation methods for these large farms.” Modern solar fields use screw piles that don’t require earth moving, and are easily removed. “Aside from a central duct bank for cables and concrete pads for inverters,” Steve says, “There’s essentially no environmental impact.” continued on page 10


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In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

Public Engagement

Staying Community Conscious Even the most basic project or development can become controversial in today’s polarized environment. In an age where an opinion (whether or not it’s based on facts) can influence thousands of others by a click on Facebook or Twitter, thinking ahead about everybody with an interest in a project is critical. We know how difficult it can be to engage stakeholders and put an end to misinformation. When a project is up for vote, it’s imperative that community members have all the facts. Recognizing this, LaBella offers stakeholder engagement services to ensure your community is on the same page. Stakeholder engagement (or stakeholder management) is planning in advance for the involvement of stakeholders, especially for municipal leaders and those proposing projects before a municipality. This article can serve as a field guide for managing all of the issues that can arise with stakeholders. There are four basic elements to stakeholder engagement—Identification & Analysis, Communications Planning, Engagement Method, and Crafting the Plan. continued at right

Now more than ever before, your constituents are getting their news from social networks such as Nextdoor and neighborhood groups on Facebook.

Project News

Techni-law-gically Advanced: Cattaraugus County Courthouse Outdated courtrooms are an all too common occurrence— and the Cattaraugus County Courthouse was no exception. TV’s had to be wheeled in to play video, evidence was projected using transparencies, and anyone with a physical disability was out of luck. Not anymore. Our team of interior designers are adept at coordinating the selection and installation of “smart” furniture, with associated data and AV capabilities.

Now, jurors can see evidence projected onto a large-format LCD screen, making pertinent details

clearer and easier to see. Infrared assisted listening devices were also added to the space to accommodate those with hearing impairment. With universality as a key design focus, all areas of the courtroom are now ADA compliant. Engineers equipped the jury box, judge’s bench, and attorney tables with numerous AV, data, and power connections making it easier to share evidence and data within the court room. For the most part, the new technology and digital ports are hidden to maintain a traditional look, which was updated with cherry veneer wall panels and new furniture.


In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

Stakeholder Identification & Analysis Broadly defined as “any organization or individual that has a vested interest in a project,” stakeholders may be directly or indirectly impacted by a development. Stakeholders are usually diverse. For example, for a project which proposes to develop property that was formerly used as farmland, stakeholder groups could include the residents living adjacent to the property, members of a local environmental group, farmers in the community, and faculty from the local higher education institution. In order to determine the complete set of stakeholders, it’s useful to review previous projects which are similar in nature to the current initiative. Other sources of data might include complaint logs, impact assessments, and a social media search. Once stakeholders are identified, they should be analyzed to determine their level of interest in the project and their level of influence. Stakeholders with high interest and high influence become your top priority.

Communications Planning After identifying stakeholders, it is important to understand what SOME FORM OF ADDITIONAL EDUCATION FOR STAKEHOLDERS MIGHT BE APPROPRIATE. FOR EXAMPLE, SOME STAKEHOLDERS MAY NOT UNDERSTAND THE AUTHORITY OF A MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT TO TAKE A CERTAIN ACTION OR NOT.

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key messages will lead to your project’s success. Stakeholders likely don’t have all of the facts and have heard various things from friends and neighbors. Now more than ever before, your constituents are getting their news from social networks such as Nextdoor and neighborhood groups on Facebook. Don’t worry about the misinformation being shared within these groups. Rather, make a plan to communicate directly with them. Preparing a communications plan and weighing these considerations allows you to foresee all of the potential risks. Some form of additional education for stakeholders might be appropriate. For example, some stakeholders may not understand the authority of a municipal government to take a certain action or not. Additionally, having a communications plan for disclosing public information might be useful for complicated projects which have many documents associated with them.

Engagement Method Identifying how you’ll engage stakeholders throughout the project planning process, approval process, and even through construction, ensures that stakeholders feel that continued on page 10

Most projects will involve public meetings, but some projects would benefit from an advisory committee made up of stakeholders that receive weekly updates from the project managers.


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In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

Project News

New Rochester Train Station Welcomes Community Aboard After more than fifteen years of planning, Rochester’s new Amtrak station is operational and promoting travel to the Flower City. The new building is 32% larger than the old station, which was built in 1978. The station, according to the Democrat and Chronicle, delights visitors “with its high ceilings, rounded skylights and huge arched windows, much more stylish and airy than its decrepit predecessor.” Working closely with Pike Construction in a designbuild effort, LaBella’s services included architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, structural, site/civil, environmental, and survey work. The design and construction team developed the project around unique constraints, including maintaining services and live tracks. Designers also incorporated photovoltaic panels along walkways, roofs, and lighting poles to offset energy costs for the building, which began construction in spring 2015 and wrapped up this fall. The space makes up nearly 38,000 square feet, segmented into the ground level (9,700 sf), the concourse, lower level, and ramp (9,200 sf), and the platform itself (19,000 sf). All spaces are ADA compliant, meeting the needs of all travelers. The project was supported by a $15 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, the result of a decade’s

The old train station was built in 1978 as a temporary solution, but operated for nearly forty years.

worth of research resulting in the Rochester’s funding. Projected to service at least 140,000 people a year, the Department of Transportation’s website claims the new station “will promote economic development and the principles of livability and sustainability by connecting people to downtown Rochester.”


In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

Learn More

Snow Melt and Ice Melt System Basics New York winters pummel our facilities annually, and weather related maintainance is no small part of operational expenses. Fortunately, snowmelt and icemelt systems can protect your buildings, roads, and citizens.

There are two types of heating systems that melt snow and ice— electric and hydronic. Electric systems draw from the building’s power and use that energy to heat coils. These are typically best suited for melting dangerous ice that forms on roofs. Electric snowmelt systems aren’t typically recommended for pathways and roads because they raise utility bills and can be affected by power outages. Hydronic systems, on the other hand, use hot water or steam from a boiler and are a more economic option for heating ground surfaces. LaBella has designed multiple hot water snowmelt system installations for sidewalks, roads, and truck ramps. Snowmelt systems reduce the risk of injuries from slipping, eliminates the physical labor (and cost) of shoveling and plowing, minimizes accidents caused by icy roads, and improves the aesthetic appeal of pathways and driveways. Electric icemelt systems for roofs eliminate ice damming at the eaves of buildings. When rooms in a building are heated, that warm air raises to the attic and can melt lower layers of snow on the roof. The melted snow runs to the edge of the roof, where it freezes. As more and more snow melts and then turns to ice, the ice dam makes its way up the roof and seeps underneath

the shingles. This process results in dangerous water damage and the potential for mold growth. Ice damming can also occur when sunny days melt snow on dark roof surfaces. Snow melts fastest at peaks where the highest concentrations of heat are located. Water drips down to the roof’s edge, where it meets frigid air temperatures and a cold roof due to an unheated space below and freezes into an ice dam. As snow continues to melt it backs up behind the ice dam and dangerous icicles form along the roof edge. These dams are exacerbated when outdoor air temperatures fluctuate—warmer winter days cause increased ice and snow melting.

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An icemelt system consisting of deicing cables that run along the roof and through gutters and downspouts can prevent the occurrence of the ice damming. The electric cabling, being constant wattage, should not be overlaid, and should be carefully installed to avoid overheating and possible short circuiting. LaBella Associates can work to design an effective ice melt system and can oversee construction to ensure proper installation. Both snowmelt and icemelt systems are designed to turn on automatically when they’re needed. For driveways, roads, and pathways a moisture- andtemperature- sensing “puck” turns on the system when it detects moisture and temperatures close to freezing. Electric roof heating systems are triggered by a temperature-sensing puck or wire. LaBella has partnered with many municipalities to design these systems with efficiency, effectiveness, and safety in mind. If you have a problem area and would like to explore the feasibility of constructing one of these systems, contact us today.

Hot water snowmelt systems can make sidewalks, roads and ramps safe in the winter without the labor of snow removal.


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LaBella’s Solar Services In addition to assisting municipalities, LaBella supports solar owners and developers from project planning through construction. While the potential for conflicts exists, having a strong knowledge and familiarity with both perspectives has helped us to become a respected resource in the New York State solar market. Some of the services LaBella provides to our solar clients include: •

Site selection, feasibility, and conceptual designs

Electrical interconnection support

Municipal approvals

Production modeling and cost estimating

Detailed design and equipment selection

Storm water mitigation

Contact us at inoffice@labellapc.com for more information.

Considering Solar continued from page 5 In addition, New York State law mandates that developers are responsible for decommissioning solar farms, which are typically slated for a life of twenty years. That said, it’s in their best interest that systems are non-invasive and easy to un-install. “I like to call it the eject button,” Steve said. “If an owner decides to decommission a solar farm for some reason, it’ll take a couple months to disassemble—that’s a lot of nuts and bolts— but they can begin farming that land immediately.”

their desire to develop cleaner energy, promote job growth, and preserve our state’s beautiful wilderness. Some communities believe solar is the answer, and others want to work towards different solution. Whatever lies ahead , LaBella is ready to help municipalities craft a solar ordinance to match your community values and protect its resources. LaBella’s Planning Division has model ordinances, planning tools and most importantly, the expertise, to facilitate the process from start to finish.

Despite different approaches, New Yorkers are united in

Repurposing through Partnership, continued from page 3 The City also used $18,920 in United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) brownfield grants for eligible site assessment activities. Ultimately, benefits of this effort included: •

Demolition and environmental cleanup to protect public health

Significant private investment by Pike, as well as the creation of new jobs as Pike Construction grows

Elimination of a vacant eyesore at a key location on Main Street

Avoidance of City

Contact Mark Gregor, our Manager of Municipal Environmental Programs at mgregor@labellapc.com.

maintenance burdens and liabilities associated with an abandoned, tax delinquent, and contaminated site If you’re interested in exploring how innovation can address brownfield challenges in your community, we can help. Mark Gregor, who recently joined LaBella, was a leader in the site transfer and environmental negotiations of this project.


In Office LaBella Associates | Winter 2018

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LaBella Adds Services in Waste and Recycling This November LaBella welcomed Joyce Engineering to our company. Since its founding in 1983, Joyce has specialized exclusively in responsibly serving the solid waste industry for both public and private clients. Services include engineering, environmental consulting, planning, permitting, and operational consulting and training.

We’re proud to be the new home of Joyce Engineering! From regulatory compliance to material recycling, we now offer comprehensive services to communities with waste facilities.

“Joining LaBella was as much about finding a cultural synergy as a business synergy,” said Leonard “Butch” Joyce, President of Joyce Engineering. “We found plenty of alignment in engineering and environmental services, but more importantly, a shared philosophy of building client relationships.”

has trained landfill operators, managers, engineers and even policy makers.

Though headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, the Joyce team is sought after for expertise across the United States for both environmental and engineering consulting and training. Through their certified training program, the firm

“Adding waste and recycling services to our firm is a natural extension of LaBella’s commitment to helping communities solve complex problems,” LaBella President Robert A. Healy said.

Staying Community Conscious continued from page 7 their voices are heard. Almost all projects that could create some kind of nuisance— increased noise, odor, road closures—no matter how temporary, need a grievance management process. Basically, a way for stakeholders to lodge complaints or concerns. A grievance management process is just one method of ensuring stakeholders are engaged in an organized way. Someone will eventually start collecting the concerns. As a municipal leader or member of their staff, it’s important to carefully consider whether your community is better off with you owning the grievance process rather than someone else. You may want to consider involving

stakeholders in monitoring the project. Most projects will involve public meetings, but some projects would benefit from an advisory committee made up of stakeholders that receive weekly updates from the project managers. With so many lowcost or free website platforms available today, you don’t have to be a web developer to create a simple website which serves as a tool to regularly engage and update stakeholders about the project.

Crafting the Plan Finally, the Stakeholder Identification & Analysis, Communications Plan, and Engagement Methods should all be documents in a Stakeholder Engagement Plan. The individuals that are responsible for tasks associated with stakeholder engagement and the timeline are both clearly outlined in this document. At this

point your plan becomes a vital tool for project success. Stakeholder Engagement ensures that you are prepared to listen to all sides, to understand the myriad of issues, and to respond. Whether stakeholders are in favor of the project or adversarial toward your goals, putting a Stakeholder Engagement Plan into action results in better-informed and more effective policies and projects. Stakeholder management is a complex process. For more information, contact Meredith Smith at (585) 474-7025 or meredithsmith@ labellapc.com.


Rochester’s New Train Station, page 8

LEARN MORE: visit our website for more information

ph. (877) 626-6606

www.labellapc.com/municipal

inoffice@labellapc.com

In Office - Winter 2018  

LaBella's team of engineers, designers, planners and consultants focus on topics and trends relating to Municipal projects.

In Office - Winter 2018  

LaBella's team of engineers, designers, planners and consultants focus on topics and trends relating to Municipal projects.