Cranberry allows conditional use permit for solar farm

Cranberry Township supervisors unanimously granted a conditional use permit to Cypress Creek Renewables for 203 acres of leased land on the Cranberry-Rockland Road from the Findlay family. About 140 acres of that land will be fenced for a solar farm.

In a change to the original ordinance, the township will require a decommissioning bond when the farm reaches the end of its lifespan, which is an anticipated 40 years.

Township solicitor Bruce Getsinger said the security could be in the form of a cash bond or other means, and the land will be restored to its original state at the end of the lease’s term. The bond amount may be adjusted every three years.

Getsinger read the “proposed decision” prior to the supervisors’ vote. He said the decision covered only the Findlay family’s three parcels leased to Cypress Creek.

Also ahead of the vote, township resident Frank Pankratz questioned the lack of transparency in the township’s minutes. Getsinger said, “Everything was done properly.”

Supervisor Matt McSparren said there was uproar when the township tried to draft the Universal Property Code in 2008.

“Everyone wanted to protect their property rights,” he said. “The Findlays have the right to do with their personal property what they want. We had two meetings on this and no one attended.”

Laura Allaman, a neighbor of the proposed solar farm, at Thursday’s meeting asked for the setback along the property to be increased to 300 feet.

“I will be looking at this for the rest of my life,” she said. “They are putting in a fence with barbed wire on top of it. All I am asking is that the setback be increased from 100 to 300 feet.”

The plan calls for a 7-foot woven fence topped with three strands of barbed wire around the solar farm. A screen of evergreen trees will be planted to screen the fence. Ten-foot solar panels will be erected 2 to 4 feet off the ground to allow the panels to follow the sun.

Cyprus Creek asserted at an earlier hearing that the 300-foot setback would impact the development.

Getsinger said the 100-foot setback was an increase from the initial 50-foot setback proposed by Cyprus Creek.

“I am asking you (the supervisors) to be an advocate for us and not for some large company,” Allaman said. “Anything can be done if you try.”

Getsinger said the increased setback would be for aesthetics, and aesthetics are not part of zoning.

After the decision by the supervisors, John Beckman, attorney for Cyprus Creek, said, “I was happy to see that the supervisors applied the facts of the law as it is written. We received some conditions today that the company will need to evaluate.”

McSparren said, “We have been working on this since April. We reviewed ordinances from all across western Pennsylvania. We had several meetings and several hearings. We really could not deny the ordinance the way it was written. Cyprus Creek met a lot of the requests the township made.”

Supervisor Fred Buckholtz said, “You can’t please everybody. We are doing the best we can.”

At an earlier meeting, a Cyprus Creek spokesman said construction would start in middle to late 2023, with completion expected within 12 to 18 months. A qualified installer will place the panels.


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