Town officials have set a schedule for review of GlobalFoundries’ plans for a second large computer chip factory and expect to make a decision by the firm’s target date, July 1.
At a meeting Wednesday, Town Board members and town consultants indicated that there are no major obstacles to what is almost certain to be a favorable decision, following a public balloon test of the proposed plant’s visual impact conducted last Saturday.
“Most of the comments I received felt the impact was minimal,” said Malta Building and Planning and Director Tony Tozzi, who led a balloon test tour Saturday morning and was also the contact for public comment. “A few felt the impact was high; those were people who lived on high ridges.”
The balloons marking the plant’s highest points could be seen only from Snake Hill Road in Stillwater and from Manning Cove at the north end of Saratoga Lake, Tozzi said.
GlobalFoundries, which already has a manufacturing plant at its Fab 8 complex in the Luther Forest Technology Campus and is building a research center, has proposed a $14.7 billion second plant that would be larger than the first. If the company decides to go forward, total employment there by 2020 could exceed 6,500. More than 2,000 people work there now.
The town of Malta has been reviewing the plant’s possible environmental impacts since February and is now concluding that review. GlobalFoundries expects to give the town its response to public comments by May 17, setting up a schedule leading to a final Malta Town Board vote on July 1. GlobalFoundries wants approval to build the second factory by that date.
Stillwater is letting Malta take the lead in the review process. Stillwater is expected to miss the firm’s target date but take its final vote soon after.
Stuart Messenger of The Chazen Group, project manager for the town’s review, said the visual impact of air vents that rise above the tree line can be reduced by using non-reflective earth-tone paint and not lighting them. “It will be mitigated to the maximum extent possible,” he said.
GlobalFoundries has also agreed to take responsibility for some traffic improvements in return for the two towns backing off on an existing requirement that a Northway Exit 11A be built. Who would actually pay for the improvements is still being discussed.
The towns will meanwhile keep pursuing federal and state approvals and funding for the new exit, though there’s widespread belief it could take nearly a decade to become reality.
The proposed intersection improvements are:
• Making several modifications to the downtown Route 9/Route 67 roundabout to allow it to handle more traffic. “Loop” or “connector” roads to bypass the roundabout are also going to be considered.
• Redesigning the Round Lake Bypass-Route 9 roundabout to increase capacity by providing an eastbound left-turn lane.
• At East Line Road and Route 67, building either northbound and southbound left turn lanes or a roundabout. Another alternative is having GlobalFoundries pay a share toward some other plan for that intersection.
• Constructing an eastbound right turn lane at Malta Avenue and Route 9.
• Installing a new traffic light at Exit 11’s southbound ramps and coordinating it with other traffic signals.
Tozzi said the improvement plans are still being discussed and aren’t yet finalized.
Traffic mitigation projects would go forward as GlobalFoundries meets specific employment thresholds, though town officials are concerned that some intersections will need improvement sooner.