Will refile mean done deal? Will gov sign?
If Gerald Rosengarten had the required 19.6 megawatts on Tuesday, Dec. 5, when he refiled his revised Middle Island Solar Farm phasing plan for drainage and grading to Brookhaven’s planning board, how could he not have had it on Monday, Dec. 4, the day the plans were withdrawn?
The question was asked by Ray Keenan, president of Manor Park Civic Association, with Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization president MaryAnn Johnston. Manor Park Civic and ABCO are among the litigants who filed an Article 78 against the town planning board and Howard Rosengarten and Associates this May after the project’s site plan approval; Keenan is the attorney for the Article 78.
The refiling on Dec. 5 surprised a number of people after the planning board meeting, including town officials. Planning board chairman Vincent Pascale had read into the record the board was anticipating denying the application before the eleventh hour withdrawal.
The project has been akin to a wrestling match. At the heart of the issue is 100 acres in the middle of town- and county-preserved Mastic Woods, permissible L-1 Industrial land that managing partner Gerald Rosengarten, Howard Rosengarten’s brother, wants to convert to a solar farm. It will be discussed again in a work session after the Long Island Advance goes to press, up for public hearing on Dec. 18.
The sticking point was Rosengarten’s promise to show due support for 19.6 megawatts and the power purchase agreement with LIPA and any other power source. That had not been proved since the project’s application began.
“We have documents from PSEG that have been resubmitted to the town and from Sybac Solar; we received them on Nov. 20,” explained Rosengarten’s attorney, Eric Russo of Van Brunt, Juzwiak & Russo P.C. “The reason we couldn’t make them part of the record was because after the Oct. 16 public hearing, the planning board record was closed.”
Pascale, who confirmed the refiling, said he was surprised when he heard about it.
Russo’s hand-delivered letter on Dec. 4 said, “Our client does not wish to proceed with these revised plans and application at this time.”
Did the refiling of the application necessitate a new application process?
“No,” answered Pascale. “He’s reapplying for the phasing plan. When they came with the phasing plan, it didn’t match the original findings and after the board found it was incorrect, [Rosengarten] submitted a new application with numbers required based on our original reason for denial.”
Pascale said he didn’t know further refiling intricacies yet; the project would be discussed at the work session on Dec. 13.
According to Russo, “there is a slight modification for Fit 2 [the second phase] for the plan PSEG approved for Sybac.”
“I’m not surprised they reapplied,” said Long Island Pine Barrens executive director Richard Amper, also a litigant on the Article 78 with ABCO and Keenan. “I don’t think it will change the nature of the project and the town’s response, so the change depends on what the governor does. The governor can fix this or make it worse. The bill is on his desk.”
The bill is New York State Assembly 7722-B – Senate 6157-B, a bipartisan effort that adds preservation additions to the central Pine Barrens and core preservation area that includes the Middle Island Solar Farm property. Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) championed it and won overwhelming approval. And town supervisor Ed Romaine has urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it via several attempts, as recently as Dec. 1, noting incentives the town is willing to give Rosengarten, including space at the landfill, 22 acres this year, 18 next year, with no clearing, permitting or environmental review costs as a land swap. He also told the Advance the town would be willing to purchase his parcel.
It is not the first time town and county officials have approached Rosengarten to broker a land purchase.
The central tricky dilemma the town has grappled with is the environmentally sensitive nature of the land. MISF contends the area isn’t pine barrens, when the tree and botanical inclusions clearly match that description, and that the parcel is approximately 1,200-1,500 feet from the Forge River. But there is proximity to a significant wetlands area on adjacent county and town land and the Forge’s obvious flowing headwaters, 40 feet across, that’s a few hundred yards away from Rosengarten’s parcel, said John Turner, conservation policy advocate for Seatuck Environmental Association. Others like the Sierra Club have pointed out the area’s fragile ecosystem and its importance to the Forge River.
Rosengarten and his team have responded in a timely fashion to Advance questions; it’s been a five-year journey and they’ve conceded to requests the town has made, he said. He also had supporters. When asked, Rosengarten even said he had hired lobbyists locally and in Albany to convince Cuomo to not sign the bill.
So while Rosengarten said he would be willing to work with the town on a solar project if he could utilize the 19.6 megawatts, was he leaning towards anything regarding a compromise with his land?
Rosengarten issued this statement: “…Based on the 20-acre landfill site that was offered by the town, I was willing to consider reducing the size of the existing 60-acre solar farm project to 20 acres and moving that over to the landfill, provided that LIPA would agree and that it met all necessary requirements. However, that option does not appear viable for the town. A straight 20-acre swap for a 19.6 MW, 60-acre solar farm is not acceptable for us, nor for the people of New York State, who deserve a fighting chance against global warming.”
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