SLINGERLANDS — Plug Power Inc. cleared its first hurdle towards establishing its proposed 350,000-square-foot facility at Vista Technology Park.
The Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved power cell producer’s application for an area variance on Wednesday, Dec. 15, pushing the issue to the town Planning Board where it will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 5, at 6 p.m.
ZBA members were first presented with the application because the proposed commercial building did not meet with zoning laws pertaining to rear yard setback in a mixed economic development district.
The board approved the application without discussion, further allowing the Planning Board to be lead agency as the project goes through the state environmental quality review.
The Latham-based business proposes an expansive development named 125 Vista Boulevard that will encompass 26 acres at the end of the Vista Boulevard roundabout. The plan would triple the amount of development already witnessed at the tech park. Construction will include 50,000 square feet of offices, 85,000 square feet for manufacturing, 100,000 square feet for assembly and service, plus 115,000 square feet for storage.
Plug Power technology powers electric motors with hydrogen fuel cells. According to the company’s website, it created the first commercially viable market for hydrogen fuel cell technology after it was founded in 1997. The company’s GenKey technology powers forklifts for various customers, including Amazon, BMW, The Southern Company, Carrefour and Walmart. According to several reports, the company’s headquarters will remain on Albany Shaker Road in Latham.
According to Robert Leslie, Bethlehem’s director of economic development and planning, the tech park’s master plan approval previously included an Environmental Impact Statement that evaluated potential impacts and mitigation measures associated with approximately 1.4 million square feet of development. Nonetheless, the Planning Board will need to determine if the proposal conforms with that master plan.
To date, 107,500 square feet of office and commercial property have been developed at the park. Should plans proceed, Plug Power will be the first technology company since the tech park opened a decade ago. The park’s courtship with Monolith Solar all but failed. The solar cell manufacturing company fell under financial hardship in 2018, but not before breaking ground on a new $5 million headquarters at the tech park. Its steel skeleton and surrounding property were later foreclosed and are under the possession of Pioneer Bank.
Development of the project will require subdivision, site plan and variance approvals from both the Town of Bethlehem and Town of New Scotland.