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The public is invited to comment at 6:30 p.m. May 2 on the proposed conversion of a 4 megawatt natural gas-fired generating facility to a 7 megawatt waste wood-burning power plant at 6662 Route 219 North in Ellicottville.

The Town Planning Board recently received a draft scope outline of impacts from the applicant, Laidlaw Energy Group, and announced the public meeting as one stage of an environmental impact study.

Laidlaw received a $1 million grant in 2004 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as a demonstration project for the biomass-to-energy process, which has generated some opposition from nearby residents.

The company last summer announced its intention to spend about $3 million to convert the plant, which will employ about 30 workers.

The plans call for the use of chipped pallets and other wood chips trucked in by Cousineau Forest Products of New Hampshire. Officials said the chips will be stored in a 30-day holding area and the plant would be operated 24 hours a day, supplying steam to lumber-drying kilns.

Before the conversion can take place, Laidlaw must receive height variances from the town Zoning Board of Appeals for a 50-foot boilerhouse and a 70-foot exhaust stack. The Planning Board must approve a special use permit and site plan, and the state must authorize an air-quality permit.

In the Planning Board's announcement, potentially significant impacts are listed as air quality, visual resources, surface or groundwater quality, noise, odor, community character and fire hazard.

Interested parties are invited to the public meeting, or can comment in writing before May 4 to the Planning Board at P.O. Box 600, Ellicottville, NY 14731.

Laidlaw's draft scoping document can be viewed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Ellicottville Town Hall, 1 W. Washington St., or across the street at the Ellicottville Memorial Library in the 1887 Building.

The Town Planning Board will review comments and prepare a final scoping document that will be used as a format for the Environmental Impact Study.

"The Town of Ellicottville Planning Board anticipates making substantial changes in the draft scope before issuing a final scope," said Board Chairman Margaret Signore in the announcement.

The meeting will be held in the Conference Room, the Inn at Holiday Valley, 6081 Route 219 South in Ellicottville.

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