HOWELL – Several residents voiced their concerns at the recent Zoning Board meeting regarding a proposed solar energy project on Victory Road.
The Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment heard additional testimony on December 13 from the applicant proposing a 23-acre solar farm on Victory Road running between Maxim-Southard Road and Lakewood-Farmingdale Road.
The applicant, IPP Solar, LLC, and the property owners, Stavola Realty Company and Stavola Construction Materials Inc., are seeking a conditional use variance, preliminary and final major subdivision approval, and preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct a 23-acre, 4.7-megawatt solar facility consisting of two solar panel arrays, two concrete pads for equipment, a 7-foot-tall chain-link perimeter security fence and two 26-foot-wide gravel access drives at the location.
Additional associated site improvements include stormwater management basins and buffer landscaping, as well as electric utility improvements on an adjacent lot to connect the proposed solar energy facility to the Jersey Central Power and Light electric grid network on Victory Road.
Attorney Salvatore Alfieri and engineer Christopher Rosati said at a previous meeting that about 20 acres of the property is in a Special Economic Development zone and eight acres is in an Agricultural Rural Estate zone. There are wetlands on a portion of the property, Rosati said.
The proposed site is currently fully wooded and the applicant is seeking to remove 22 acres of trees to construct solar arrays.
At the December 13 meeting, a public comment portion was held and many residents discussed their dissatisfaction with the project and how it’s not beneficial to the town’s environment.
Resident Candace Dovenero of 58 Victory Road brought up concerns about runoff water and drainage as this area of town already has these problems.
“Victory Road as a whole has a lot of drainage issues… we are very concerned of the extra ground water, runoff water, that Victory Road already has an issue with, as well as the woodland issue,” Dovenero said. “Are we going to make sure there’s no runoff water that will affect the surrounding people?”
Rosati said that the system they have created for the project was designed to not have any runoff water leaving the site. The water will be permeated back into the ground.
Betty Velez-Gimbel of 97 Victory Road, who owns and operates the small farm across from the application site, asked the board members to deny this application because it threatens endangered wildlife that lives in that area. She also questioned if the solar panels are actually recyclable or not.
As the meeting concluded, Alfieri stated the applicant will be submitting revised plans on the following areas: recycling details of the panels and infrastructure; the power demand of the utility versus what they’re proposing; possible solar panel pollutions with well water; and shadow study of trees.
The project was carried to the January 24 meeting where the applicant will present their revised plans and the public can once again speak about the changes.