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Brookhaven officials look toward code change to limit solar panel farms

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine on

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine on March 4, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Brookhaven Town officials plan to introduce a code change next month that would limit solar panel farms after proposals for solar arrays in Shoreham raised concerns, Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said.

The new law would ban solar farms in the core preservation areas of the state-protected Pine Barrens and give the town board greater control over future solar proposals, Romaine said in an interview. The town board will hold a public hearing on the proposed law on Jan. 8, he said.

The Long Island Power Authority is considering 11 solar projects in Suffolk County, including sites in Manorville, East Shoreham, Medford and Yaphank.

Romaine said the proposed code change is intended "to send a very strong message to my friends at LIPA," who he said have not consulted with town officials on land use and environmental issues at the Brookhaven sites.

"You really should be talking to local government," he said. "We control the land use."

Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island, which manages the electrical grid for LIPA, said solar developers and landowners are responsible for working with town officials. "We encourage all the developers that are part of the . . . process to continue to follow town code and town law," Weir said.

The code change, if approved, would not affect a 9.5-megawatt solar array planned at a Shoreham sod farm, Romaine said. The town planning board approved that 60-acre project in October.

Romaine said he has written to Brookhaven community leaders to seek public input into the solar code.

Frederick Eisenbud, a Commack attorney who represents Shoreham homeowners opposed to the solar plans there, said the proposals were "an assault on the character of the community." He said Romaine's plan should ensure such facilities are not located near homes.

Eisenbud said in an interview that the Shoreham neighborhood will "become a commercial district instead of a bucolic, residential area."

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the state law would not allow a solar farm proposed for an Eastport site in the Pine Barrens core preservation area. He questioned the process by which solar sites are selected.

"Environmental and social considerations were not vital to the selection process, so therefore it was a bad process," Amper said Monday.

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