Kirby Farm Solar Application Deemed Complete
It will be heard starting May 2.
The Bedminster Land Use Board determined Thursday that the application for solar panels at Kirby Farms has been completed, and it will be heard starting May 2.
And many residents spoke out at the meeting to express their concerns about the application in advance of its first hearing.
The application is looking for the installation of a 55-acre, 49,000-panel industrial-scale solar power plant on the 106-acre residentially zoned Kirby Farm.
The farm would power only Sanofi-Aventis on Route 202/206 in Bridgewater.
A group called Preserve Bedminster, led by resident Jill Barone, is opposing the application from KDC Solar of Bedminster.
Until very recently, the application had been deemed incomplete, but township engineer Paul Ferriero said all the information has been submitted, and the board unanimously deemed it complete.
“We’ve accepted their application to come before the board to hear their case,” said Land Use Board chairman Lance Boxer. “It will start on May 2, and likely go for a number of months.”
“With any controversial or complicated application, the best thing is to attend meetings, read documentation and prepare questions,” he added.
Bridgewater resident Michelle Smith said she is especially concerned about health issues from the solar panels. Research, she said, has found that people exposed to the solar panels could have a higher rate of COPD, auto-immune deficiency disorders, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
“Until there is long term research, we are not going to know what is going to happen,” she said. “And the danger is not going to stop at the Hills.”
Smith said she is concerned that these panels will also harm the aesthetics of the town.
“This town has so much hometown warmth,” she said. “We’re going to ruin our neighborhood.”
Barone, in response to another resident’s concern about other homes she has seen lose value after solar panels are built, said she does not want to see that happen to her properties in Bedminster, including one she is planning on Somerset Terrace.
“I have invested all my money into my properties,” she said. “My health and well-being concerns me, and the loss of potential earnings.”
“If the power plant goes in, there is no reason to pursue my dream [of building a home on Somerset Terrace],” she added. “Keep Bedminster the way it has been.”
Boxer said they understand the concerns, but the applicant does have a right to present the case, particularly now that the application is complete.
“We are obligated to hear it, now the clock is ticking and we have to get them in here,” he said. “We’ve had many controversial hearings here before and the people matter.”
“The best hearings are ones where residents have emotions and constructive opinions,” he added. “We will do our job to make sure we are well-read, and would recommend everyone else do that too.”
One resident said she would like the board to consider whether the panels are inherently beneficial for the town, and whether they would affect the beauty and historical value of the town.
As for the solar ordinance, which is not connected with the application, Boxer said it has been introduced by the township committee and will be discussed about its conformity to the master plan at the March 7 meeting.