Planned solar farm in Cranberry meets opposition

About 30 Cranberry Township residents registered their opposition to the proposed Cypress Creek Renewables solar farm — on property between Bucktail Road and Cranberry-Rockland Road — during a conditional use hearing on Thursday at the municipal building.

The township conducted the hearing to determine whether Cypress Creek met all conditions outlined in the zoning ordinance, which was amended earlier this year with input from Cypress Creek. Township solicitor Bruce Getsinger said that was not uncommon in writing a curative amendment.

However, township resident Frank Pankratz said that was like having a “fox in the henhouse” and also questioned the glare off of the planned solar farm’s mirrors. He requested a wider buffer between his property and the solar farm.

Cypress Creek project developer Chelsea Woodfin said the glare would not be any greater than the glare from a pond.

Steve Reagan, an attorney for Cypress Creek, testified all of the requirements in the township ordinance were met. The supervisors did not vote on Cypress Creek’s application on Thursday. They will reconvene on Oct. 27.

Once the ruling is made, it would affect all of the properties listed as A1 (agricultural). Reagan said if the township were to deny Cypress Creek’s application, he would consider it to be “spot zoning” — an illegal action.

Cranberry Township Supervisor Matt McSparren said if Cypress Creek meets all of the requirements, the township must approve the application.

Cypress Hill would lease 203 acres. About 140 acres would be fenced for the solar farm itself. The 10-foot solar panels would be erected 2 to 4 feet off the ground to allow the panels to follow the sun.

The solar farm has an anticipated 40-year life span, and the township would not require a decommissioning bond when the farm reaches the end of its life span.

Woodfin said construction would start in middle to late 2023, with completion within 12 to 18 months. A qualified installer would place the panels.

Justin Symm, an engineer with Cypress Creek, said a dirt road would service the site and any runoff would be collected on-site.

The first of the “party objectors” was township resident Elma Britt, who asked if the stream running near the solar farm would be affected. Woodfin said it would not be impacted and that buffers would be placed along the creek.

Township resident Michael Heim was concerned about the health effects from an EMF (electro-magnetic field) that could be created by the solar farm.

Woodfin said there was no EMF danger coming from the site. She said some EMF was generated, but no more than is generated from electrical wiring in a home.

“There is no need for an EMF study,” she said.

Tom Carnes, owner of property “across the road” from the planned solar farm, asked if there was any benefit to the township by approving the permit. “The property will go from an agricultural tax rate to a commercial tax rate,” Cranberry Township Manager Eric Heil said.

A petition was presented to the township supervisors asking for more transparency regarding the solar farm and that meetings be moved to another time so more people would have an opportunity to attend.

“You did a study to consider the animals, but not the people who enjoy watching the wildlife,” said Linda Eichorn, whose property is across from the entry road to the proposed solar farm. “In my opinion, the solar farm is more important than the people.”


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