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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Town Elects Not to Consider Mt. Sinai Zoning Change for New Leaf Energy


Photo Credit – Mount Sinai Civic Association Facebook

In addition to the ongoing conversations of open-space preservation and conscientious development, another topic of frequent discussion is that zoning is cognizant of community needs and input.

The Mount Sinai Civic Association recently made their concerns known to the Town Council, which recently adopted the responsibilities of the now-defunct Planning Board, regarding a proposal to rezone a parcel of land from J Business District (Transitional Business Zone) to L Industrial 1 (Light Industrial Zone).

New Leaf Energy proposed a battery energy storage system facility in Mount Sinai, which would have required a rezoning of the property. The proposed facility is part of a state effort to achieve the goal of 2019 New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which hopes that by 2030, 70% of electricity used should come from renewable sources.

The battery storage system proposed by New Leaf would have offset lack of wind and solar power in the off-season by storing excess energy. The facility would have also been able to distribute energy when needed.

The 40,000-square-foot facility was slated to contain twenty-four Tesla Megapack 2XL containers, capable of powering 16,000 homes. The proposed site was adjacent to Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Route 25A.

The Mount Sinai Civic Association was among the most vocal community stakeholders in opposition to the plan, stating fears of safety, proximity to high amounts of lithium, and possible fires. Estimates of the last meeting state that 70-80% of attendees were opposed to the plan.

Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Center Moriches) released a statement on Wednesday, stating the Town has elected not to consider New Leaf’s proposal, primarily due to community opposition in the Mount Sinai area.

“In the Town of Brookhaven, we spend a great deal of time on our Community Based Land Use Plans, actively engaging our communities and residents, to enact land use plans which reflect the character of our communities,” said Panico. “At a recent meeting of the Mount Sinai Civic Association, I listened carefully to the concerns of area residents, and two things were readily apparent to me. The first was that people preferred the current zoning and/or the possibility of the redevelopment of the parcel into a use more compatible with the zoning.”

“The second, and more salient point, was that there is significant confusion regarding the New York State Climate Action goals and implementation of these battery energy storage systems,” Panico continued. I have spoken to New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), and he wholeheartedly agrees that far more needs to be done on in terms of education on this issue. He is a committed partner and engaged public servant who supports Brookhaven’s position and decision.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who represents the area within the Second Council District, echoed Supervisor Panico’s points.

“I have spoken to so many residents on this issue and believe the Supervisor is 100% correct. There has been a great deal of misinformation on this matter,” said Councilwoman Bonner. “Under New York State law, zoning power rests with the Town of Brookhaven and we are going to uphold the integrity of our zoning for our residents in this case. I thank so many people for reaching out directly to me on this matter whom I have come to know personally over the course of my tenure here as Town Councilwoman for our area. I welcome this direct dialogue and strongly caution against relying on social media for factual information on issues like this because social media has proven to be more than somewhat unreliable.”

The Town Board hears all zoning proposals and applicants are not guaranteed a hearing. Since the Town has elected not to consider the proposal, the application is effectively dismissed.

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.