ZBA rejects Northville farm’s solar application

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected a Northville farm’s variance request to erect solar panels that would have been used to sell energy back to power provider PSEG-LI.

The application from Plant Connection, which is owned by Melissa Daniels and Anthony Caggiano, had sought to construct solar panels on a 10-acre portion of its 40-acre nursery on Sound Avenue. That section of the property cannot be farmed because of prior contamination of roundworms known as nematodes.

The ZBA voted 4-0 in opposition of the variance request. Member Frank Seabrook was absent.

Plant Connection attorney Steve Angel said he believes the project constitutes as a public benefit and the variance application should require a less stringent set of criteria.

The ZBA disagreed.

ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin said granting a use variance so soon after the Town Board approved legislation limiting solar energy systems to industrial zones would set a precedent that could open the door to other such applications throughout the town.

During a public hearing earlier this year, members of the Long Island Farm Bureau urged the town to allow solar panels in farm zones and said the renewable energy projects would provide additional revenue to keep farms in business.

The Town Board decided to limited solar panels to industrial zones in order to prevent farmland from being overwhelmed by solar panel farms.

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