Second solar project in Dover Township back before zoning board

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

The second controversial solar project in Dover Township in as many years is set to get its second meeting in front of the township's Zoning Hearing Board.

The 10,500-panel solar farm, proposed by Mechanicsburg-based Solar Renewable Energy, is planned for 5370 Harmony Grove Road in Dover Township.

Currently, the developer is seeking a special use exception in the area as the land is zoned for agriculture. According to the company's website, Solar Renewable Energy has developed several solar energy projects in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well as other East Coast states.

The company may face a tough challenge in Dover, however. During a nearly three-hour meeting in February, the project's first before the Zoning Hearing Board, several audience members were skeptical at best about why the solar project should be in Dover Township.

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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 in February. "I really don't. I'd rather see houses, at least houses are pretty."

Michael Chapman also spoke against the solar project in February.

"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," Chapman said.

While speakers appealed to the Zoning Hearing Board to stop the solar installation, solicitor Michael Craley told audience members the board had to follow the law, period.

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

"The only way to change the law is to get the Board of Supervisors to change it," Craley said in February. "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."

Another solar project needing a special use exception required several months of discussion before it was approved.

Enel Green Power's project, first proposed in November 2021, took until June 2022 to receive conditional approval from the Zoning Hearing Board. It was the only topic on the Zoning Hearing Board's agenda for the months between, and those meetings were filled with supporters and detractors alike.

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Keep Dover Beautiful, which formed in opposition to the Enel Green Power project, did not respond to a request for comment on the latest plan. Jeff Shoener, who in the past has spoken on behalf of Keep Dover Beautiful, spoke at the February zoning meeting.

The special use exception required by Solar Renewable Energy is the first step in getting a solar project approved. If the exception is approved, the next step would be submitting a land development plan for approval by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Enel Green Power officials said in February they plan to submit their own land development plan sometime this spring.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Lancaster County, the city of Lancaster and several other partners have created a solar co-op.

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According to Monica Carey, Pennsylvania project director of nonprofit Solar United Neighbors, a solar co-op involves a group of homeowners, small business owners and nonprofit organizations going solar through a single installer. The organization has completed 15 co-ops in Pennsylvania so far, including Allegheny County, Indiana County and Westmoreland County.

"We want to help give solar a good name, and Lancaster is the right place for SUN to help folks go solar," Carey said via email.

The Dover Township Zoning Hearing Board meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Community Room of the Dover Township Community Building, 3700 Davidsburg Road. While generally the board meets at the township's municipal building, the meeting has been moved to the community building in anticipation of a large turnout.

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