Riverhead officials are defending their role in a recently approved 36-megawatt solar farm in Calverton after a former councilor accused the city of failing to comment on the state’s review of the project.
Barbara Blass, a former Democratic city councilor, told city council at its regular July 7 meeting that she was disappointed that city officials did not comment on the review of the solar park project while the The state’s Office of Renewable Energy Siting was reviewing it. The project spans 290 acres along Middle Country Road and Edwards Avenue and was proposed by Riverhead Solar 2 LLC.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on June 25 that the newly created state agency had issued a final site permit for the project.
The transcript of the May 11 public hearing with the state’s Office of Renewable Energy Siting showed that no official or representative of Riverhead commented during the hearing. No comments were received during the solar project’s public comment period, according to office documents on the project.
Blass told Newsday she stands by her comments and believes city officials are not representing the community by not providing updated comments during the state review.
“The city literally did not participate in this process,” said Blass. “They failed to do their job and represent the people.”
At the July 15 city council working session, city officials said they had taken as many steps as the state’s review process allowed.
City planning and construction administrator Jeff Murphree, who called Blass’ comments a “carefully written ambush,” said the Riverhead Planning Department and the city attorney’s office had worked with representatives from Riverhead Solar 2 to address community concerns throughout the process.
City supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Newsday the company issued a notice informing the community of the May 11 public hearing and said city attorney Robert Kozakiewicz attended the audience but had not spoken.
Additionally, Aguiar added, the city raised community concerns about the project in a 14-page letter dated October 5, 2018 to the state’s multi-agency selection board.
Aguiar said she found Blass’ comments offensive to city employees who worked on the app.
“It was an ambush against the employees of our city,” Aguiar said. “The facts have been distorted and claims have been made that should not have been made. It is evident that the [project’s] the sitemap has been read, and many of these claims have been addressed there, but some people refuse to take it into consideration. ”