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GloFo to send up balloons for Fab 8.2 visibility test

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
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— A balloon test on Saturday, May 4, will let the public judge for itself the visual impact of GlobalFoundries’ proposed second computer chip plant, officials said Wednesday.

The test will be done from 8 a.m. to noon. The public in both Malta and Stillwater will be asked to contact town officials to give their impressions of the impact.

“The public will be asked to provide feedback on whether they think the impact is slight, moderate or severe,” said Malta town Supervisor Paul Sausville.

The visual impact analysis is part of the two towns’ effort to judge the environmental impact of the proposed Fab 8.2, which will be larger and taller than the first fab plant, which GlobalFoundries opened last year on the Luther Forest Technology Campus.

The chipmaker is also developing a new computerized simulation of the plant’s appearance, which should be ready next week, company officials said.

In seeking more information, the towns are reacting to public concern that the highest parts of the new plant would be visible from around Saratoga Lake. Some people in Stillwater and the town of Saratoga also say it would be visible from their homes.

The new plant’s air ventilation stacks would stretch as high as 125 feet, 15 feet higher than those on the first plant. GlobalFoundries acknowledges the stacks would be visible above the treeline from some locations.

For the test, four red balloons will be flown at 125 feet, and a larger blue balloon will be at 175 feet. The test will be conducted by C.T. Male and Saratoga Associates, consultants to GlobalFoundries.

A tour of viewing sites around Saratoga Lake will start at Malta Town Hall, probably at 9 a.m., but the time hasn’t been finalized.

GlobalFoundries conducted a balloon height test of its own late last summer, before it had announced its plans. It didn’t alert the public in advance, so nearby residents didn’t know about it.

In contrast, the May 4 test will be promoted through news releases and the Malta town website. If it’s raining or too windy, the test will be moved to the following Saturday, May 11.

In a balloon test, colored balloons are floated at the height of a proposed building so people can see for themselves how visible it will be. There will be a large balloon floated high above the site so people will know where to look, but that’s not the building height, said Malta Building and Planning Director Anthony Tozzi.

“It’s so people will know what direction to look. The actual height balloons may be so low that people won’t even see them,” he said.

While Malta officials, who are overseeing the environmental review, will take the public’s calls, they also want feedback from residents of Stillwater and Saratoga who can see the balloons.

Company officials haven’t made a commitment yet to build Fab 8.2, but have said they want zoning approvals in place by June 30. There’s speculation GlobalFoundries, one of the fastest-growing chipmakers in the world, wants to make a decision on the $14.7 billion project later this year.

In addition to visual impact, town officials are reviewing anticipated impacts the new plant would have on traffic and noise levels. A noise expert retained by the town is evaluating the plans in hope of preventing the kind of noise complaints from nearby residents that have been generated by backup power supply units at the first plant.

“The design for [noise mitigation for] 8.2 is significantly better,” said Stuart Messinger, project manager for The Chazen Companies, the town’s engineering consultants.

If Fab 8.2 is built, the GlobalFoundries workforce would increase from about 2,000 today to a projected 6,684 by 2020.

 
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