Brookhaven Town has issued a building permit for a 60-acre solar energy farm in Shoreham, the last hurdle before construction of the controversial array can begin.
The 9.5-megawatt solar array proposed by developer sPower will consist of 50,000 black panels mounted on poles 10 feet above the ground on what is now a DeLalio sod farm on Route 25A. The project would power less than 1,000 homes.
With the building permit in hand, sPower will begin construction "as promptly as possible," said Morton Weber, an attorney for the company.StoryPol: Delay large-scale solar plan for 6 monthsStoryResidents file suit over proposed solar farmStoryResidents seek halt to Shoreham solar project
However, residents who live near the site have filed a lawsuit to block the project, saying a required environmental review of the project was never conducted. Residents say they are concerned about property values, aesthetics and potential health issues, concerns sPower says are unfounded.
Issuance of the building permit comes as Brookhaven is moving to adopt a new solar code.
The code would prevent developers from counting the space between panels to meet an open-space requirement that mandates 35 percent of the project's land remain open space.
An sPower attorney who appeared at a meeting three weeks ago where the Suffolk Planning Commission approved the code had said that element would "kill" large commercial projects across Long Island. Planning commission chairman David Calone dismissed that claim, saying spaces between panels doesn't fit the definition of open space.
Weber, who declined to comment on litigation, said efforts by sPower to win over community members in recent months are working. "I think support for sPower certainly has dramatically risen," he said.
Fred Eisenbud, an attorney for residents, said he's been authorized to seek a temporary restraining order to halt construction until the case is decided.
sPower owns another project on Edwards Avenue in Calverton that is nearing completion.
Brookhaven spokesman Jack Krieger confirmed that the building permit had been issued.