A week after former councilwoman Barbara Blass criticized Riverhead Town officials for failing to participate in the state’s review of a giant solar farm in Calverton, officials responded, saying the town had extensive input into the review and can still receive a “community benefit” from the proposed facility.
The Riverhead Solar 2 proposal calls for a 36-megawatt solar energy facility on 190 acres in Calverton. Because it would generate more than 25 megawatts, it needed to be reviewed by the state Public Service Commission under Article 10, rather than by the town.
But a state law approved last year allowed the review to be done under the recently created Office of Renewable Energy Siting’s 94-C process, which was meant to fast track renewable energy projects.
The siting for Solar 2 was approved by ORES on June 25.
Ms. Blass said the record under ORES shows that the town made no comments on the proposal.
“The 94-c process administrated by ORES is clearly designed to maximize host community involvement,” Ms. Blass said at the July 7 Town Board meeting. “Unfortunately, Riverhead must have forgotten they were the host community.”
She said the public hearing transcript showed that no one from Riverhead Town participated in the May 11 public hearing before ORES.
Town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said the town submitted comments under the Article 10 proceedings and those comments were transferred over to the 94-c review.
He added that the first page of the permit states: “This Permit is supported by the extensive record compiled in the Public Service Law Article 10 and Executive Law 94-c proceedings.”
“To simply disregard the Article 10 process and say that we are …not properly represented is, I think, wrong,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said. He said the town was “heavily involved” in that process.
Town building and planning administrator Jeff Murphree said the Solar 2 application goes back to 2018.
He said the town’s 2003 master plan did not recommend replacing industrial zoning in Calverton, which is where most of the solar projects are located.
He said that while solar proposals have met with opposition, industrial projects have also been opposed. Mr. Murphree said the Planning Board has found no significant environmental impacts from the solar projects it has reviewed.
Ms. Blass spoke again at the Town Board meeting Tuesday, and said that everything she’d said at the July 7 meeting is a fact.
“The facts I stated are supported by the record and I stand behind them 100 percent,” she said.
She said there was no public discussion about a community benefit package or an outreach to the Calverton community on Solar 2.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town is working on a payment in lieu of taxes on Solar 2, and a community host benefit package.