Malta officials want more information on how visible the proposed second GlobalFoundries computer chip plant will be from around Saratoga Lake.
The Town Board on Wednesday asked the chipmaker for a new computerized simulation, and also to conduct a new balloon height test — and, this time, to give public notice, so people can see the height for themselves.
“If it gives people in their home a level of comfort, I’m not going to take that away from them,” Councilwoman Maggi Ruisi said after the town’s consultants said doing both the balloon test and simulation would be redundant.
The Town Board is reviewing the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Fab 8.2, and is reacting to public concern that the highest parts of the plant will be visible from around the lake.
The new plant’s air ventilation stacks would be as much as 125 feet off the ground, 15 feet higher than those on the first Fab 8 plant. The stacks would be visible above the treeline from some locations.
Two people who spoke at a public hearing on the plans Monday in Malta said they lived on the lake and were concerned about seeing the factory. Some of the town’s consultants think the concerns are overblown.
“Our findings, based on the studies we have done, show there is not a significant visual impact,” said Joe Lanaro, an engineer with town engineering consultants The Chazen Companies. “This is about addressing the public perception.”
GlobalFoundries conducted a balloon height test late last summer, before it had announced its plans for a second fabrication plant on the Luther Forest Technology Campus. It didn’t announce the test to the public. In a balloon test, colored balloons are floated at the height of the proposed building so people can observe the impact.
The new test, which will be done on a Saturday within the next few weeks, will be announced, so people in the area can look for the balloons and see the anticipated building height for themselves.
“We’ll get some information out to the public so they’ll know it’s going to happen,” said Malta town Supervisor Paul Sausville.
The computer simulation and balloon tests should both be done in the next couple of weeks, said Steve Groseclose, GlobalFoundries’ director of risk management, sustainability and real estate.
“We’ve already documented that you’ll be able to see the stacks,” Groseclose said. “There will be impacts, but whether they’re acceptable is up to the Town Board.”
The visual impact analysis is part of the two towns’ review of several zoning changes GlobalFoundries is requesting. Malta is leading the environmental review for both towns.
Company officials haven’t made a commitment yet to build Fab 8.2, but have said they want the zoning approvals in place by June 30.
Also Wednesday, the Malta board agreed bypass roads are the best way to give drivers an alternative to using the downtown routes 9 and 67 roundabout. They rejected the idea of adding slip lanes to increase the roundabout’s capacity.
Bypass roads already exist at three of the intersection’s four corners, though each could be replaced by larger and more efficient roads in the future.
Town officials are concerned about adding more GlobalFoundries traffic at the roundabout, which is in the heart of the developing downtown zone. But there may be an argument for not improving the intersection too much.
“If this becomes an intersection that’s known to be a little harder to get through, then people will start going down to Stonebreak Road or the Route 67 entrance (to GlobalFoundries),” said Councilman Peter Klotz.
Board members also agreed to keep lobbying federal and state officials for a Northway Exit 11A, even though it’s not currently on the drawing boards and could cost $50 million or more.
“It’s going to take a heavy lift,” Klotz acknowledged. “I think we need to keep pushing.”
Additional traffic on local roads is expected to be one of the major impacts of Fab 8.2. If it is built, the GlobalFoundries workforce would rise from today’s 2,000 to an estimated 6,684 by 2020.
Current zoning requires Exit 11A be built before the plant opens, but GlobalFoundries argues that improvements to the local road system can suffice.