Say No to Syynnergy Solar!
I live in this area where the proposed solar farm is being planned. I urge the Planning board to deny any waivers, variances, etc for this project. Flooding is already a major problem in the Sweetbriar Ave, Rutgers Ave and Whitehead Rd area. This application is asking the township’s permission to cut down more stream buffer on the floodplain than what the ordinance allows. The applications also lack the required soil samples for a past contaminated field. The application should have never moved forward to the point it is without this. Those stream buffers and floodplain help reduce stormwater runoff, flooding and improve water quality. It is important for the Planning board to know that approving this project might also jeopardize funding for the larger Army Corp of Engineer’s study that is ongoing in the area.
The developer is also asking to cut an entire forest down to build this project. The forest consists of large and small trees, shrubs, and ground cover- all of which absorbs stormwater and reduces flooding. Yes, the developer will be required to replant some of those trees, but only a fraction of those will be replanted in the Sweetbriar community. So, cutting all those trees is really only going to make flooding worse in Sweetbriar.
I am sure that the members of the planning board must know that the flooding is already so bad in the Miry Run and Lower Assunpink Creek area that the Army Corps of Engineers is already conducting a flood study in the area. If you go to the Us Army Corps of engineers website about the Assunpink Creed Flood Control Study, they have a picture (see in article) of the flooded-out intersection of Sweetbriar Ave and Whitehead Road. If you allow this application to cut this forested floodplain and cut more of the stream buffer, it will only make flooding worse. I have attached the description of the US Army Corps of Engineers Lower Assunpink Creek Project. It states:
“The focus of this feasibility study is the lower reach of the Assunpink and its tributaries that are located in the City of Trenton, Hamilton Township, and Lawrence Township, New Jersey. Within the study area, flooding problems are widespread. The wide flood plains of the relatively low gradient streams are subject to chronic flooding and , on several occasions, extensive flood damage has occurred. Most recently, the study area experienced record flood levels and a great deal of property damage as a result of the heavy rains brought on by Hurricane Irene in Aug 2011. Flooding on the Assunpink Creek that resulted from the Assunpink Creek that resulted from Hurricane Irene shut down the rail lines in the city of Trenton for three days. This disrupted one of the busiest parts of the nation’s passenger train system between Philadelphia and New York. This feasibility study is examining the flooding problems along the Assunpink Creek and evaluating the Federal interest in implementing flood risk management solutions.”
I urge the Planning board to deny this waiver/variance that will destroy some of the very same environmentally sensitive areas that are now naturally helping to reduce flooding.
More than 8 years ago I installed solar panels on the roof of my home. This created an extremely energy efficient atmosphere for my household. I am an advocate for solar, however, I am not an advocate for this proposed solar farm.
Currently today, residents have experienced extreme flooding in the Cornell Height area. This proposed solar farm by Synnergy has the potential to make a bad situation even worse. This will damage our homes beyond recognition during a flood. In the past ten years the Cornell Heights area has experiences two 100 year flood episodes.
Flood plains are nature’s engineering achievement. No human flood-management expert could ever hope to control flood waters better. They are often an outstanding wildlife habitat, and they protect human habitats from expensive and heartrending disasters. The State of NJ has requirements to safeguard communities. The Twp of Hamilton has created an ordinance (Chapter 583) which has a stricter standard to protect residents. The developer wants to break the ordinance. The twp must uphold the ordinance that we have on the books to ensure the public safety of the community and optimal quality of life. We do not care about the DEP permit, its not relevant. Our ordinance must stand.
During this past weeks testimony by the developer, their expert witnesses, Julia Alagio, used the word “some” numerous times. That there will be “some” trees removed. “Some increase in water”.
The Synnergy Soal Project will:
ü Clear 12 acres of forest, including 820 large trees and numerous smaller ones, plus all the shrubs and ground cover that make up a healthy streamside forest. The 820 is based on trees with a greater than 10 inch diameter. There will actually be over 1100 trees removed as testified this week by a township employee.
ü Grade the high and low areas that capture rainwater and lets it soak into the ground. The township ordinance clearly states that there cannot be any change to the grade. Yet, the developer wants to change the grade by 4 to 5 FEET in areas.
ü 67% of this project is located in Hamilton Township’s SBCZ.
This project fails to meet the Intent and Purpose of the SBCZ because:
583-1(A) - Projects in the SBCZ are supposed to meet “accepted conservation practices.” An entire forest will be cut down to build this project.
583-1(B) – SBCZ are supposed to prevent pollutants from running off the land into the creek. The forest will be clear-cut, the ground re-graded and the stormwater drained to yet more detention basins. Nothing prevents pollution runoff better than the forest that is there today.
583-1(C-F) – Without the trees, we lose the benefits of shading that protects the water quality, the wildlife habitat both in the forest and in the stream, the natural erosion protection of the streambanks, the floodplains and other natural features.
583-1(G) – The forest and other natural features there today “minimize hazards to life, property and stream features.”
This project fails to meet the requirements for a waiver because:
583-4 – States: There shall be no clearing or cutting of trees and brush, except for removal of dead vegetation and pruning for reasons of public safety or for the replacement of invasive species with indigenous species. There shall be no regrading or construction within the SBCZ.
583-4(A) States: Acceptable land uses in the SBCZ include open space uses that are primarily passive in character, provided near-stream vegetation is preserved, including:
1) Wildlife sanctuaries, nature preserves, forest preserves, fishing areas, game farms, fish hatcheries and fishing reserves, operated for the protection and propagation of wildlife, but excluding structures,
2) This project will result in a substantial impact to the SBCZ and surrounding communities:
3) 583-8 - A waiver may be granted “where the consequent impact upon the SBCZ is determined to be minimal.” Clear cutting 12 acres of woodlands is NOT MINIMAL.
4) 583.3A(2)- About 67% of the solar panels are locate in the SBCZ. The Planning Board can only grant “minor” waivers.
6) 583-8- A waiver may only be granted where “it has been affirmatively demonstrated that the proposed activity will not be materially detrimental or injurious to other property or improvements in the area and will not endanger public safety.”
There are many legal and legitimate reasons given above for the Planning Board to deny this application
Other important points:
ü What will this project do to real estate values? Certainly, the homes in the Sweetbriar and Whitehead areas will go from having valuable wooded open space to a large-scale, treeless solar farm.
ü Did the Hamilton Township Environmental Commission review these plans? What was the Commission’s position on this project?
Currently today, the sewer plant utilizes 7MEGS of power. The solar farm is slated to only manage 4 MEGS. Why does the township consider such a project when the infrastructure of our own sewer system is failing? This project brings zero advantage to residents only potential devastation to our homes.
To deliberately destroy the flood plain is unacceptable. This past summer the township extended the gun range in Cornell Heights, destroying trees and wetlands. There is also a produced project for American Metro Way, to add additional dwellings in an already overwhelmed ecosystem. This unbalanced give and take is leaving us with environmental chaos in Cornell Heights.
The loss of the upland forest will remove canopy and sub-canopy habitats for resident and migratory fauna. It will eliminate nesting sites for native residents and summer passerine avian species. This loss would affect species such as catbirds, American robin, blue jays, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, oven birds, and others. The loss would eliminate 12 acres of roosting habitat and migrating raptors such as red-tailed hawk, Coopers hawk, sharp shinned hawk, and vultures. Resident reptiles and amphibians would lose foraging and hibernation locations. The insect community complexity would be changed to species tolerant of open, unforested environments.
Air quality will also be altered by microclimate modification associated with the change to land cover.
Federal studies show an acre of flood plain wetlands can store up to 1.6M gallons of floodwater. Restoring rather than destroying wetlands of flood plains can reduce damaging floods. The plan to destroy 20 acres of floodplain with the solar farm is not what the residents desire.
The proposed solar farm is going into a flood zone. A few years ago when the bridge was redone on Sweetbriar, they raised it 21 inches and changed the slope of the surrounding area. The first hard rain we received flooded my home. We reported this to the County. The slope was then altered to try to optimize the flooding situation. There has been a history of poor planning which has negatively affected the public safety of the residents in Cornell heights.
There is 3 acres of contamination on the site. The site has an industrial history. There is a potential to find things that have been dumped that are highly toxic. In past projects in the Cornell Height community, residents have been subjected to toxic dust (American Metro Way), the demise of wildlife during the Congoleum cleanup, etc. This project will pose a significant public safety and health impact on the residents of Hamilton Township while the benefits go to a different community. That’s not right.
The ordinance was written to protect the residents of Hamilton. The leadership of the township must live up to their commitment in the ordinance. The residents have to matter. Since the implementation of the American Metro way project, where we were told there would be zero increase to flooding, the damage from floods has increased exponentially. Residents pre American Metro Way never had flood damage, now on a basic rain they are getting 36” of water into their homes. There were numerous forests removed to make way for the American Metro Way project. The solar projects attorney is Mr McGee. Mr Mcgee was the attorney for that American Metro Way project as well. So, residents are very wary of his promises.
SAVE THE RESIDENTS OF HAMILTON TOWNSHIP CORNELL HEIGHT AREA! NO SOLAR FARM ON SWEETBRIAR!!