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Freehold Township rejects 9,000-panel solar farm

Asbury Park Press|Joe Strupp|September 20, 2022
New JerseyImpact on LandscapeImpact on PeopleZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar
The Planning Board rejected a request to install more than 9,000 solar panels on portions of a local farm after dozens of residents protested the move, officials said. The board voted, 6-2, against the plan at its regular meeting on Sept. 15. The proposal was submitted by NJ Solar 2000, according to Board Administrative Officer Donna Butch.

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – The Planning Board rejected a request to install more than 9,000 solar panels on portions of a local farm after dozens of residents protested the move, officials said.
 
The board voted, 6-2, against the plan at its regular meeting on Sept. 15. The proposal was submitted by NJ Solar 2000, according to Board Administrative Officer Donna Butch.
 
“My only reason is that I felt that the applicant proved their case that it is a beneficial use of the property,” said Board Chair Jason Levy, one of only two members to favor the project.
 
He said the board must vote again at a future meeting on a formal resolution of the decision.
 
NJ Solar 2000, which has the right to appeal the rejection, had sought to place 9,720 solar panels on 9.6 acres of land at 56 Willow Brook Road, according to township documents.
 
More:Freehold Township residents worry about disruption from major solar panel project
 
The Planning Board voted on two specific requests, a site plan application and a request for a use variance. Both were denied.
 
“I think it shows that there is still power in ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]
     
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – The Planning Board rejected a request to install more than 9,000 solar panels on portions of a local farm after dozens of residents protested the move, officials said.
 
The board voted, 6-2, against the plan at its regular meeting on Sept. 15. The proposal was submitted by NJ Solar 2000, according to Board Administrative Officer Donna Butch.
 
“My only reason is that I felt that the applicant proved their case that it is a beneficial use of the property,” said Board Chair Jason Levy, one of only two members to favor the project.
 
He said the board must vote again at a future meeting on a formal resolution of the decision.
 
NJ Solar 2000, which has the right to appeal the rejection, had sought to place 9,720 solar panels on 9.6 acres of land at 56 Willow Brook Road, according to township documents.
 
More:Freehold Township residents worry about disruption from major solar panel project
 
The Planning Board voted on two specific requests, a site plan application and a request for a use variance. Both were denied.
 
“I think it shows that there is still power in residents collectively bringing issues to the attention of those in charge and they still can effect change,” said Megan Scano, one of dozens of residents who spoke out during the meeting.
 
“It appeared they had their minds made up,” resident Lisa Morrison, who also attended the meeting, said. “But we spoke and they could not say what the benefit would be.”
 
The site is part of a larger 35-acre parcel owned by Polhemus & Gibson Farm of Freehold, which grows vegetables and sells them at a local vegetable stand, according to Ellsworth Gibson, one of the farm owners.
 
Gibson had declined to reveal how much revenue the project would provide for his business, but he said it would not disrupt his current crops.
 
NJ Solar 2000 did not respond to requests for comment, while Township Administrator Peter Valesi declined to comment, noting that the project still requires the formal vote.
 
The site plan for the solar panels included the planting of numerous trees and other plant life around the panels to help hide them, according to documents.
 
It also claimed that the panels would provide enough solar energy to power about 500 homes.
 
An Environmental Impact Statement found no significant impact to the area, according to documents.
 
“The proposed ground-mounted solar field improvements will have minimal impact on environmental resources at the site, notably freshwater wetlands and Debois Creek,” the review by Colliers Engineering and Design of Red Bank stated. “A significant amount of the site will remain undisturbed for the proposed development, and minimal earthwork and land disturbances will take place.”
 
Freehold Township is already home to at least two other solar farms, a smaller site at 127 Grave Hill Rd. and another under construction at 812 Route 33.

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