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Another year, another controversial solar project in Dover

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

The Dover Township Zoning Hearing Board may be in for another long haul when it comes to the latest solar project proposed in the township.

A request for a special exception was ultimately continued to the board's March 15 meeting after a nearly three-hour meeting Wednesday night.

Solar Renewable Energy LLC, based in Mechanicsburg, is seeking to build a 10,500-panel solar farm at 5370 Harmony Grove Road. The company has done several solar projects throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey among other East Coast states, according to Steve Crimmel, its sales director.

The land currently is zoned for agriculture, and the project would require a special exception for a Principal Solar Energy System.

During questions from abutting or nearby property owners, Crimmel said the array would likely power about 700 homes across utility company Met-Ed's network.

"There's no direct line here to you, and it's kind of like water going through a pipe. It gets routed off to different people," he said. "There's big effort towards renewables, but I can tell you it's not a direct benefit to your house or your neighbor's house, but it's an overall reduction of the cost in a small way."

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While the request is for another solar farm, it is not the same as the Enel Green Power farm approved by the Zoning Hearing Board last year after several months of debate from supporters and opponents alike. This project, unlike Enel Green Power's, does not have a substation.

Zoning Officer John McLucas said the township had not yet received a land development plan from Enel Green Power.

Solar Renewable Energy's special exception request is the first step in the process. Next would be the land development plan, followed by permitting.

Crimmel said the project would be monitored remotely and only see activity approximately three times a year. That includes an annual inspection and mowing of slow and low-growing grass. The project would be surrounded by an 8-foot chain link fence and be screened by native plants.

The meeting, held at the township's community building in case of a large turnout, saw several people attend. While questions were allowed from abutters or those close to the property, some speakers appealed to the Zoning Hearing Board to try to stop the solar installation.

"Pretty soon, kids are going to walk out the door and the only thing they're going to see down the road is going to be solar farm, solar farm, solar farm," Michael Chapman said.

Maps of the proposed solar farm off of Harmony Grove Road in Dover Township at the Zoning Hearing Board meeting on Feb. 16, 2023.

At the end of his comment, Chapman said solar farms are not why people came to Dover. "I don't care if you like it or not," he said directly to attorney Claudia Shank, representing the applicant.

Speaker Jeffrey Shoener, part of Keep Dover Beautiful, which formed in opposition to the Enel Green Power project, asked how much of a hum the project would emit and if it could be heard by surrounding property owners. Ben Kirk, an employee of Burget and Associates, which created the site plan for the project, said any hum would be created by inverters that are centrally located in the project and would not be heard by surrounding property owners.

Another speaker, Eric Naylor, attempted to cite the zoning ordinance regarding agricultural districts that states uses that are provided a special exemption must be either in a building or on lands unsuited to agricultural uses. When Solicitor Michael Craley pointed out that another section of the ordinance overrides the general requirements of the zoning ordinance, Naylor appeared to storm out.

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"That's a shame that it's allowed in agricultural type of places, and I certainly don't want to look out my windows and see solar farms," speaker Susan Hall said. "I really don't. I'd rather see houses, at least houses are pretty."

Hall addressed the board directly, asking how many solar farms were going to be allowed and questioning how the board members could they do this to their neighbors.

Craley told the audience the Zoning Hearing Board had to follow the law.

"The only way to change the law is to get the Board of Supervisors to change it," he said. "We've got to follow the law, whether we like it or not. It's not a personal opinion; it's whether the applicant meets the legal criteria or whether objectors meet the legal criteria. We've got to go by the law."

The March 15 Zoning Hearing Board meeting will likely be at the community building again to accommodate turnout, Craley said. Usually, the board meets at the township's municipal building.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.