Riverhead Officials Impose Moratorium on Solar Energy Applications

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Peconic River, Riverhead, New York (iStock)

Riverhead officials voted to adopt a one-year moratorium on commercial solar energy applications.

After complaints from some residents, the Long Island City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday for the moratorium. Councilman Frank Beyrodt abstained in the vote, which was first reported by Newsday.

It was not immediately clear what problems locals think the solar farms would cause, but some were alarmed by the pace of their development in an area where farms are common. Riverhead officials wouldn’t say if the city has ever imposed a moratorium on anything else.

In 2014, the city changed its code to allow “commercial solar power generation systems” to be set up by special permit in certain areas, such as industrial areas. However, there are now fears that the influx of applications for solar power development could harm farmland, according to a public notice of the moratorium.

The moratorium is intended to allow the city to implement further zoning and planning changes before more solar applications arrive. It does not affect facilities under construction, applications submitted before January 1 or applications submitted in response to the City’s call for tenders.

Other localities in New York have placed similar moratoriums on solar energy projects, in part out of fear of the loss of agricultural jobs. Among them are Glen, which imposed a six-month moratorium on new large-scale solar projects, and Batavia, which imposed a 180-day moratorium to update its solar code.

In Manlius, council members rejected a proposal for a moratorium, saying discussing the issue had given them time to review the plans and laws in place regarding solar farms.

Between 1950 and 1992, farmland in Suffolk County shrank by 71%, from 123,346 acres to 35,353. In 1996, Riverhead owned 38% of the county’s farmland – a figure shown in the public notice to illustrate the importance of agricultural land in the city.

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