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Brookhaven considers code overhaul for big solar arrays

Brookhaven Town will consider overhauling its code for solar energy installations following an influx of applications for large-scale projects in the town.

The move comes amid protests by Shoreham residents over a 60-acre solar array slated for a sod farm on Route 25A that abuts residential neighborhoods.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine said Tuesday the plan for public hearings wasn't in response to complaints about the Shoreham project, which recently received Brookhaven Town Planning Board approvals.

"We're not considering a moratorium on solar," Romaine said. "We have to draft a code for all occasions."

The town will hold public hearings in coming months to solicit suggestions from residents and others to update a general solar code already on the books. Any change to the code would require the town board's approval.

Among considerations, Romaine said, are whether to allow projects that would require clearing of trees, and whether to permit them on agriculturally zoned land. Southold and Riverhead towns have restrictions on commercial-scale solar farms on agricultural land, except for use by the farm.

Hundreds of Shoreham residents oppose the project in their neighborhood, fearing it would lower property values and mar views on rural Route 25A.

Marc Alessi, a Shoreham resident and LIPA board member who has opposed the project and the notification process that allowed it, said any new code should include the Shoreham array, which he called "an abomination."

Brookhaven in April considered a solar code, but tabled the idea because, Romaine said, the plan wasn't ready.

MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, has said previously that large-scale solar projects should be located first on industrial rooftops and brownfields, not undeveloped or agricultural land, including sod farms.

Romaine said Brookhaven is working on plans to install solar power at several town-owned properties, including at town hall; on an unused 33-acre compost facility in Manorville; at the Brookhaven Calabro Airport; and at the town landfill.

The town wants to generate around 50 percent of its own energy by 2020, Romaine said.

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