Riverhead Town stands ready to ink a $1.5 million deal with solar energy developer L.I. Solar Generation to fund benefits to the community as host to the company’s 22.9 megawatt commercial solar energy facility on about 198 acres off Edwards Avenue in Calverton.
The town board last week approved the community benefits agreement with L.I. Solar, a joint venture of NextEra Energy Resources and National Grid. The $1.5 million will be paid to the town in two equal payments of $750,000, with the first to be made within five business days of final site plan approval and the second to be made within five business days of the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy for the facility.
But the board’s action last week was mired in some confusion, as the resolution before the board contained numerous inaccurate statements and the agreement itself included a deadline clause that town board members said they never saw before.
Councilwoman Catherine Kent asked to table the resolution because of the number of revisions it required. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who moved the resolution, objected to the idea of tabling it and argued that the board should amend it and vote on it.
Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said the wrong version of the resolution was in the computer system. It contained language that pertained to the Riverhead Solar project and community benefits agreement that did not apply to the LI Solar project. For example, it referenced an environmental impact statement that was not required of LI Solar by the town board.
Kozakiewicz said the revisions that needed to be made were not substantial and board members agreed to bring the resolution to a vote.
Kent also questioned why the community benefits agreement had a new provision that allowed LI Solar to terminate the agreement if the planning board did not grant final site plan approval for the project by Feb. 4. That provision was not in the version of the community benefits agreement that was before the board at its work session Dec. 10, when they reviewed the resolutions for the Dec. 15 meeting.
“I think that’s sort of putting our planning board in a sort of difficult position. It’s a short turnaround and they don’t even have that many meetings,” Kent said.
Kozakiewicz said the termination language was not in the final version of the document that accompanied the corrected resolution and he didn’t understand how it got into the version that was in the original resolution packet for the meeting.
Kozakiewicz said Riverhead Planning Board Chairman Stan Carey reached out to him that morning to object to the Feb. 4 deadline.
The planning board has not yet granted preliminary site plan approval, so expecting it could grant preliminary and site plan approval within less than two months, over the holidays, was an unrealistic limitation, Kent said.
In interviews after the meeting, council members Tim Hubbard and Frank Beyrodt both said they never saw an agreement that had a termination clause setting any deadline for planning board approval.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said she had seen a version of the agreement with the deadline in it and was told that’s what the developer wanted.
“When I was presented with those were the conditions, I agreed to them. I cannot speak for the rest of the board if somebody review(ed) it or, if they didn’t review it, or they have comments after that, I can’t tell you,” Aguiar said.
In an interview yesterday, Hubbard said he’d spoken with the town attorney about it and the town attorney maintains that the town never agreed to the deadline, though the developer’s attorney, Stephen Losquadro sought to have it included.
Losquadro yesterday acknowledged he had been seeking a clause setting a deadline for final site plan approval.
The project has been waiting for approvals for a long time because it got delayed by the COVID crisis, Losquadro said.
The town board issued a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act in February. In March, the state of emergency went into effect, shuttering town hall sand canceling meetings.
The town board approved a special permit for the solar facility on Dec. 1.
Losquadro said his client needs to have the application move forward expeditiously, in light of the already long delay.
“It is 100% compliant with the town code,” Losquadro said. “Everything is as-of-right. It seemed logical for there to be a date included in the agreement.”
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