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The application for permission to build a 1,200 acre solar panel farm west of Route 934 will be heard by North Annville township supervisors on Thursday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Union Water Works Fire Hall.

Colorado-based Lebanon Solar I, LLC wants to install the panels on 12 agriculturally zoned properties west of Route 934, and says it has long term leases with the owners.

Other than announcing the date, the issue was not on the official agenda at last night’s regular monthly supervisors’ meeting. Even so, board chairman Randy Leisure opened the floor to about 20 minutes of public comment before the supervisors turned to other business.

About a half dozen residents in the packed fire hall expressed fears about declining property values, the close proximity of the panels to their homes, and loss of the township’s agricultural nature.

Lebanon Solar I is asking for a conditional use permit under the township’s zoning ordinance. A conditional use is defined by Pennsylvania law as a use which is permitted as long as the applicant can meet the conditions required by the zoning ordinance for that particular use. The municipality can impose additional reasonable conditions on the use.

Leisure explained that the supervisors could not comment or answer questions last night, because they are required by state law to decide whether the solar farm gets approved or not.

In essence, the supervisors will act as a three-judge panel on June 24. They will allow those for and against the application to introduce evidence, testify, and make arguments. They will have 45 days from the close of the hearing to make a decision.

Any interested party unhappy with the supervisors’ decision will have the right to appeal to the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas.

Some residents had stated at a June 7 meeting that the Bellegrove Fire Company had announced that it would not respond to fires or emergencies at a solar farm.

Last night, Leisure read a letter from the Bellegrove Fire Company addressing the proposed solar farm. It said that “our members are currently trained by the state fire academy in solar panel emergency preparedness,” and that it is “seeking expert advice on emergency response tactics . . . to respond to an emergency at a facility of this type.”

What’s next?

The Board of Supervisors of North Annville Township will hold a formal hearing, open to the public, on the application of Lebanon Solar I, LLC, for a conditional use permit on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the Union Water Works Fire Company social hall, 2875 Water Works Way, Annville, PA. 17003-9400.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...