Sourland Solar Project Put on Hold
Quarry asks township for time extension to present application, with no specific date given.
An application to build a solar array on the eastern slope of Sourland Mountain has been indefinitely put on hold.
Township Planner Robert Ringelheim told the Planning Board on Thursday night that the attorney for Gibraltar Quarry had requested an extension of time to file an amended application that originally called for a 9,996-panel solar array on the mountain off Dutchtown-Zion Road.
Gibraltar had been scheduled to appear before the Planning Board on Thursday.
About two dozen residents attended a Planning Board hearing in May on the project that called for felling more than 2,000 trees.
About 500 acres of the quarry, formerly owned by 3M, are in Hillsborough and 200 acres are in Montgomery; the only entrance is in Montgomery, but the property nearest the top of the mountain is in Hillsborough. Since 2009, Gibraltar Rock has conveyed 734 acres at the quarry to Somerset County as part of the Sourland Mountain Preserve. That is more than half of the 1,440 acres Gibraltar acquired from 3M in 2009. The solar array would be installed on the Hillsborough portion of the property.
An engineer for Gibraltar said in May that the panels, to be installed by KDC Solar, will generate 2.3 megawatts of power for operations at the quarry. The solar panels will be located on 7.5 acres of the 20-acre site; the engineer explained the additional room is necessary so that the 100-foot trees in the area would have enough room to topple without hitting the panels. The panels, on concrete pads, will be 5 to 8 feet off the ground, he said.
Gibraltar was scheduled to return to the board in July, but adjourned that hearing because the company was working on revised plans to address issues raised at the May meeting.
At that meeting, Planning Board Engineer Bill Buzby said his “main concern” about the plan was whether the proposed drainage system, which includes a retention basin, has “sufficient capacity” to handle the run-off. Buzby said both the Somerset County Planning Board and the Somerset-Union Soil Conservation District had similar concerns.
Ringelheim said Gibraltar has no “specific date” when it will be returning to the board. He said that Gibraltar would have to send new notices to neighbors and re-advertise its new application.
In a notice posted on Facebook in July, Cliff Wilson, president of the Sourlands Planning Council, said Gibraltar had decided to move the proposed solar array to an open piece of the property so that only a few trees would be impacted.
Wilson said that decision came after members of the Sourlands Planning Council met with representatives of Gibraltar.