The Brookhaven Planning Board on Monday approved a scaled-down solar project for a parcel of land in Mastic that was the subject of a state law that would have blocked its development until Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed the measure last month.
The planning board’s approval gives the go-ahead for development of 40 acres within the 100-acre parcel on Moriches-Middle Island Road to begin, according to the developer, the Middle Island Solar Farm.
“We are pleased with the Brookhaven Planning Board’s decision to approve the Middle Island Solar Farm’s phasing plan which allows us to begin work on a significant renewable energy project on Long Island,” the developer said in a statement. Construction is expected to begin soon.
An opponent, MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, called the board’s decision “appalling.”
“This is not in the best interest of Long Islanders, or, frankly of alternative energy,” said Johnston, whose group joined with area residents in suing to block the solar array, alleging it failed to comply with a new Brookhaven Town code. The suit is pending. “We don’t need to deforest what’s left of our undeveloped land, no matter how many former employees of the governor want that.”
Johnston was referring to Robert M. Rosenthal, an environmental attorney for Middle Island Solar Farm, who led the company’s efforts to derail the recently vetoed pine barrens expansion act. Rosenthal until 2013 had been assistant counsel for energy and environment in Cuomo’s office, instrumental in crafting the LIPA Reform Act of 2013 and LIPA’s amended contract with PSEG Long Island, according to Rosenthal’s web page at the law firm Greenberg Traurig. A representative for the firm said, “We are proud of the work our team of government affairs, environment and energy attorneys did on behalf of MISF’s efforts to support the governor’s veto and obtain the requisite [town] approvals...”
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, whose office had been negotiating with Cuomo’s office to work out an offer to preserve the 100-acre parcel and give Middle Island alternative space on the town landfill to build its project, said his staff will meet Thursday with Cuomo’s staff in Manhattan to continue talks. The pine barrens expansion law would have preserved the Mastic property and another 1,000 acres around the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant.
Middle Island Solar Farm, in its statement, suggested that construction was imminent. It has already cleared a 10-foot wide path through the property for test borings. “As we begin work on the initial 40 acres, we are committed to a constructive dialogue with state and local officials on the remaining phases of the project,” the company said.