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Brookhaven may put off its own solar panel regulations in favor of countywide rules

Town of Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine speaks at

Town of Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine speaks at a conference in Ronkonkoma on Nov. 13, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

Brookhaven Town officials said Monday they may delay plans to develop restrictions on solar panel arrays because Suffolk County officials are crafting their own guidelines for the controversial power facilities.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine had announced last month that the town would develop its own code giving the town board greater power over solar proposals, after many residents objected to a planned solar array at a Shoreham sod farm. That plan was approved by the town planning board last fall.

On Monday, Brookhaven town officials agreed to work with county officials on a plan that would govern solar installations in Suffolk's 10 towns. The Long Island Power Authority is considering 11 solar projects in Suffolk, including sites in Calverton, Manorville, East Shoreham, Medford, Yaphank and Kings Park.

At a Brookhaven Town Board work session, county Planning Commission chairman David Calone said Suffolk officials plan to form a "working group" including civic leaders, environmentalists and county and town officials to update existing solar guidelines. Calone said the group would study other communities' measures limiting solar facilities.

Solar farms are "a real concern here in the Town of Brookhaven, but it's not just Brookhaven," Calone said, citing projects in Riverhead and Southold towns. "You're not alone."

The town board had planned to schedule a public hearing on the proposed solar code during a meeting on Thursday. The board agreed Monday to postpone town action while the county develops a code.

Romaine said solar arrays should be limited to properties in industrial or commercial areas and should be discouraged in residential and agricultural regions. He said it makes more sense for the county, rather than the town, to develop guidelines. "If there's one code for all the towns, then there's a uniformity and a consistency so that you don't have different codes," Romaine said.

Calone said county officials support alternative energy sources such as solar, which he called "an important part of our future on Long Island.

"We gotta find the right balance. It may not make sense to clear-cut a bunch of trees to make way for solar."

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