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Town Board to decide whether to extend solar moratorium that it enacted last year

The Riverhead Town Board will have to decide whether it wants to continue the 12-month moratorium it imposed a year ago on new solar projects in the town.

The board discussed the issue at Thursday’s work session, but two board members were absent and one recused himself from the discussion.

Town Attorney Erik Howard told the board that it has four months to make a decision, or the moratorium expires on its own. 

There are currently five solar farms in Calverton, mostly along Edwards Avenue. 

The two most recently approved cover 199 and 252 acres, respectively, and some Calverton residents have been calling for a stop on solar farms and industrial development.

The Town Board on Oct. 19, 2021, enacted the “moratorium on the development of Commercial Energy Production Systems” within the town. This came following an earlier public hearing on the issue, where the response was mixed, although some speakers criticized the board for not acting quick enough. 

“The people in Calverton are just really tired seeing solar farms at the moment and I think this was the best way to address it,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said at the Sept. 21, 2021 hearing. “Just put a stop and let the comprehensive plan dictate where we’re going.” 

The moratorium only applies to commercial properties. 

Ms. Aguiar said she supports extending the moratorium. Council members Tim Hubbard and Bob Kern were absent, and Councilman Frank Beyrodt has recused himself due to a conflict.

Councilman Ken Rothwell said he’d like to see “what work has been done before we extend the moratorium. Tell me what we discovered over the past year in reviewing this. I haven’t heard anything about it.” 

Jefferson Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator, put the blame on the consultants hired by the town to update the town comprehensive plan, who were later fired by the town. 

“As you recall, we had a consultant receiving the comprehensive plan and one of the charges was to research, review, and analyze this,” he said.

Ms. Aguiar said the town is in the process of hiring a consultant to finish the work done on the comprehensive plan update.

She said the town interviewed three candidates and hopes to hire one within a week.