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Visual impacts, air quality, noise and increased traffic are some of the concerns noted by the Ellicottville Town Planning Board on Monday night during a preliminary review of Laidlaw Energy Group's proposal to burn wood chips at its energy conversion plant on Route 219.

The project, which will require the addition of a 70- or 80-foot-high smokestack to its existing 17-acre site, must obtain a special use permit and a site plan approval from the Planning Board, but only after it receives a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The facility will receive waste wood chips and other biomass sources in a joint venture with Cousineau Forest Products.

The energy produced will be used by a hardwood lumber kiln drying operation on the site and will supply as much as 3.8 megawatts of power to the power grid under an existing arrangement with Niagara Mohawk.

Michael B. Bartoszek, Laidlaw's president and chief executive officer, said he hopes to have these and other modifications in place in time to fire up the plant by next July. His company, with the aid of planning consultant Robert Runge, intends to submit an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals by Nov. 3.

Also concerned about the project were several nearby residents, including Jim Kelly and developer Peter Krog, who said they will return to submit formal comments later in the project review process by the various agencies involved.

Kelly said he owns a large piece of land on the west side of Route 219, "directly across the road," which he uses as a getaway for his family. He said he fears air quality will be affected and interfere with the enjoyment of his home.

"It's my dream log cabin for my family," Kelly said, noting Bartoszek and others involved with the project gave all the right answers.

The Planning Board directed planners to send a notice of a pending coordinated review to other interested agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Department of Transportation and the Cattaraugus County Planning Board.

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