By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Solar panels will go up this summer, developers said, after the Grand Island Town Board vote 4-1 Monday to approve a special use permit for a solar farm at 1611 Whitehaven Road near the power lines.
Thomas Guzek of SolarPark Energy, representing applicants from Grand Island, said at a work session Friday that his company envisions the project as a "showcase" of future solar power projects, and he claimed it would provide enough juice for 1,200 homes.
Residents in the Whitehaven Road neighborhood objected to the project at a public hearing on the matter in June. Addressing some of their concerns, Councilman Pete Marston pointed out the nearest house would be an eighth of a mile from the project, greater than the distance from Adrian's to Mighty Taco on Grand Island Boulevard. He said the distance is "pretty substantial" and he didn't foresee the project hurting property values, but rather the dent in property values comes from living near the power lines.
Councilman Mike Madigan voted "No," saying the project would leave minimal to no biodiversity, pointing to a solar array project on Bedell Road that has made that property what he claimed is "a barren piece of land."
Asked how long it would be before people will see solar panels on that property, Guzek said, "Based on this, we'll probably see something within the next 30 days, for sure. We've already started rolling some equipment in to start doing some things."
To those opponents of the project who spoke at the public hearing on the matter and who Madigan represented with his "No" vote, Guzek said, "We tried to answer every question to every individual who's asked us about things. We think the benefits of this project are going to be outstanding to the community."
Guzek noted the benefit of a pollinator garden that would be made with the project and "the screening of the panels from anyone on Whitehaven Road or in the surrounding area."
"I think that the project is going to be extremely beneficial for everyone," he said.