Riverhead officials have voted to adopt a yearlong moratorium on commercial solar energy applications.
After complaints from some residents, the Long Island town board voted 4-0 Tuesday for the moratorium. Councilman Frank Beyrodt abstained from the vote, which was first reported by Newsday.
It was not immediately clear what problems locals think solar farms will cause, but some were alarmed at the pace of their development in an area where farms are common. Riverhead officials would not say if the town has ever imposed a moratorium on anything else.
In 2014, the town amended its code to allow for the placement of “commercial solar energy production systems” by special permit in certain zones, such as industrial. However, now there is fear that the influx of solar energy development applications may be detrimental to agricultural lands, according to a public notice regarding the moratorium.
The moratorium is meant to allow the town to implement new zoning and planning changes before more solar applications come through. It does not affect developments in the process of being built, applications filed before Jan. 1 or applications submitted in response to the town’s request for proposals.
Other New York localities have established similar moratoriums on solar energy projects, in part over concerns that farming jobs would be lost. Among them is Glen, which imposed a six-month moratorium on new utility-scale solar projects, and Batavia, which imposed a 180-day moratorium to update its solar code.
In Manlius, board members voted down a proposed moratorium, saying that discussion over the issue gave them time to review the projects and laws in place regarding solar farms.
Between 1950 and 1992, farmland in Suffolk County decreased 71 percent, from 123,346 acres to 35,353. In 1996, Riverhead had 38 percent of the county’s farmland — a figure the public notice states to illustrate the importance of the town’s farmland.