Mt. Joy Township (Gettysburg), Pennsylvania

 

On December of 2019, our family had just returned from a Florida vacation to find an urgent note from a Historic Bed and Breakfast owner/neighbor, only to discover that NextEra Energy, LLC from Juno Beach, Florida was orchestrating a 1,000 acre industrial solar powerplant in Gettysburg, PA.  Despite being township residents for 10 years, my family and neighbors had no idea of this pending monstrosity that had been in the works, since 2016.  After reviewing the large-scale application that would surround 168 adjacent properties across 10 different roads with a 20.6 mile radius, my wife discovered an online article from Susan Ralston, while we were driving home from dinner.  Desperate for some guidance, reassurance, and direction, we reached out to Ms. Ralston on a Saturday night and were elated when she responded back within a few minutes with a follow-up phone call the following Monday.  

Ralston’s grassroots organization, Citizens for Responsible Solar quickly provided a wealth of knowledgeable resources and essential connections to the VA Piedmont Environmental Group, NC State Professor Dr. Herb Eckerlin, and Physicist John Droz, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Wise Energy. 

 

Besides organizing public outcry and local media coverage to expose this “secret society,” the most important advice was to hire a competent land-use attorney and litigation real estate appraiser; otherwise, these local governments will do what they want, because they can, unless legally challenged.  The solar lease holders and their few supporters like to spread fear and tell everyone “it is a done deal and we will be laughing all the way to the bank,” but it is not over unless your community stops fighting and/or until a higher court says otherwise. 

Well, after almost two years of fundraising, educating the community, and 22 nights of conditional-use hearings with (3) three legal experts, Mt Joy Township “denied” the initial application on June 3, 2021, which is now under appeal by the applicant.  Whether you are in Virginia, Indiana, New York, or Pennsylvania, unfortunately, there are often “elected officials” with solar leases and/or hands in the cookie jar, which we discovered firsthand as we continue fighting this threat to our rural community and historic heritage:    

  

https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2021/06/04/planned-solar-project-near-gettysburg-denied-key-permit/

MOUNT JOY TOWNSHIP, Gettysburg, Pa. -- A proposed industrial-scale, 75 MW solar plant could result in a 20 percent drop in property values for the 114 residential homeowners adjacent to the project, according to testimony by Mark Heckman, a PA certified general real estate appraiser. 

The median loss per household would range from $60,000 to more than $120,000, Heckman testified, which translates into millions of dollars in “depreciated property values,” especially for homes located within 1,000 feet of an industrial site and “negative” ripple effects for miles across the township.  Heckman noted the proposed site plan reminds him of a “bygone era when there were no zoning regulations.”  Municipal land-use planner Lawrence Lahr also noted on October 21, 2020 that the Zoning Officer did not have legal authority to waive the “shall language” of the Chapter 81 storm-water management plan as required “in advance” by township ordinance, in order to assess unique project challenges and turbid runoff impacts to neighboring properties. 

Residents for Responsible Agriculture/Solar of Mount Joy Township, a 950 plus group in written opposition to the $90 million project, contends that this giant solar footprint threatens prime farmland, forested, and floodplain areas adjacent to wetlands, historic homes, and residential properties. The inadequate and irresponsible site-plan and township ordinance only requires 50’ setbacks, with eight-foot high, chain-link fences surrounding a still “undetermined number” of 12-foot high rotating solar panels, across (1,000) one-thousand acres and (10) ten township roads!!! The group said this project would negatively impact local wildlife, including deer, turkeys, migratory birds, bats, and pollinators, and harm the Plum and Alloway Creek Watersheds that buffer storm water run-off to the Chesapeake Bay.  Moreover, the large-scale proposal will waste millions of gallons of water during the construction phase for dust control, mixing concrete, and long-term cleaning of solar panels, which could easily deplete and/or cross-contaminate domestic well water.

It is also reported that the unregulated, intermittent, and unreliable energy created will only be powering an “unnamed customer” in the East Coast grid and will not benefit any residents of Adams County.  It would also create very few local jobs as it will be an unmanned facility.  This Brookview Solar I and other similar powerplant proposals (Straban/Cumberland) surrounding Gettysburg threatens tourism, which promotes our historic and agricultural heritage, and brings in $725 million dollars a year to the local economy, according to local hospitality owners, the American Battlefield Trust, and Licensed Battlefield Guide(s). 

Even more concerning, NC State Professor/Mechanical & Aerospace Engineer, Dr. Herbert M. Eckerlin, testified on Oct. 21, 2020 that the cost to decommission this proposed Mt Joy project at “today’s dollar” would be close to 7 million dollars to completely remove, dispose of any hazardous waste, and restore this land back to its original condition.  However, Brookview’s "low ball" decommissioning estimate is only proposing a $500,000 bond to cover the full removal/disposal over-the-next 10 to 35 years?  Therefore, any gross miscalculations or project overages will quickly become the township, county, and taxpayer expense to avoid additional Superfund Sites in Adams County.

 

Todd McCauslin

 

Help us protect agricultural-forestry zoned land from large, industrial-scale solar developments