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Town planners OK Shoreham solar power project

The Brookhaven Town planning board Monday voted unanimously to approve a site plan and special permit for a hotly contested solar power array on farmland in Shoreham.

The board also voted to grant the project a special status called a negative declaration, which relieves the developer of having to conduct arduous environmental reviews. Developer sPower of Salt Lake City wants the site up and running by year's end.

Residents who oppose the 60-acre project, which would sit on what is now a sod farm sandwiched between neighborhoods and along Route 25, said they were disappointed by the board's vote. About a dozen attended the meeting.

"They just basically shattered a community for pure greed," said Mike Harding, whose home backs onto the site.

Several residents said they are considering legal action to block the project.

"There certainly are grounds to sue," said MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, which opposes the project. Johnston said industrial roofs and brownfields should be the first choice for such industrial solar arrays.

The Shoreham project involves placing 50,000 solar panels 10 feet off the ground on 60 acres of what is currently a DeLallio sod farm. Residents fear the project, which would be among the largest solar arrays in the state, would affect property values, views and even their health. sPower has said the concerns are unfounded.

Vincent E. Pascale, chairman of the planning board, said after the 6-0 vote that the board "deliberated for quite some time" to come to its conclusions.

"We went by the codes," he said. "We did all our checking. We took facts from factual sources. A lot of the information at the [initial September] hearing was rumors."

The 9.5-megawatt project is part of a so-called feed-in tariff initiative launched by the Long Island Power Authority and administered by PSEG Long Island. LIPA trustee Marc Alessi, who lives in Shoreham, has opposed the project, saying he and other residents were blindsided by it.

At the meeting, Alessi and another LIPA trustee who lives in Shoreham, Matthew Cordaro, expressed disbelief that the project had been granted a negative declaration. "I'm just totally astounded by that," said Cordaro, noting that few industrial-scale power projects escape the need for such a review.

Two Shoreham residents who live adjacent to the site said they favored the solar farm over residential development. Solar "is what we wanted for the property," said one of them, Bill Majuk.

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