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High court rejects borough’s appeal over solar project

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided this week not to accept an appeal from Gratz Borough over a lower-court ruling that favored a company seeking to develop a solar farm in the northern Dauphin County municipality.

The appeal followed a Commonwealth Court ruling last fall that the borough failed to properly advertise a meeting where it set stricter zoning standards for solar energy systems.

The meeting took place while the company, G Morris Solar LLC, was seeking permission for a 17-megawatt solar project.

A Dauphin County court had also sided with G Morris, an affiliate of North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables.

An attorney for the developer declined to comment.

A Gratz official referred questions to the borough’s outside attorney, Sean Logsdon. He said the borough may try to pass the ordinance again, though it would not affect the G Morris development.

“That’s it for that appeal,” Logsdon said.

What’s next: The borough is appealing another county court decision in a separate issue related to the solar project.

In June 2022, the borough denied G Morris’s conditional use application to erect solar panels on commercially zoned land.

But in a decision in October 2023, Dauphin County Judge John J. McNally III ruled that the borough’s denial was “not supported by substantial evidence” and deemed the application approved.

The solar project has drawn opposition from neighbors concerned about the potential impact on property values and quality of life.

The trend: Developers have installed 1,491 megawatts of solar power in Pennsylvania as of the end of 2023, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

That is enough to power 195,365 homes, though it represents only 0.62% of the state’s energy sources.

Gov. Josh Shapiro is pushing a proposal to dramatically increase the amount of energy that comes from solar, wind and other alternative sources, including small nuclear reactors and clean natural gas. But the proposal faces skepticism in the legislature.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from the borough’s attorney.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided this week not to accept an appeal from Gratz Borough over a lower-court ruling that favored a company seeking to develop a solar farm in the northern Dauphin County municipality.

The appeal followed a Commonwealth Court ruling last fall that the borough failed to properly advertise a meeting where it set stricter zoning standards for solar energy systems.

The meeting took place while the company, G Morris Solar LLC, was seeking permission for a 17-megawatt solar project.

A Dauphin County court had also sided with G Morris, an affiliate of North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables.

An attorney for the developer declined to comment.

A Gratz official referred questions to the borough’s outside attorney, Sean Logsdon. He said the borough may try to pass the ordinance again, though it would not affect the G Morris development.

“That’s it for that appeal,” Logsdon said.

What’s next: The borough is appealing another county court decision in a separate issue related to the solar project.

In June 2022, the borough denied G Morris’s conditional use application to erect solar panels on commercially zoned land.

But in a decision in October 2023, Dauphin County Judge John J. McNally III ruled that the borough’s denial was “not supported by substantial evidence” and deemed the application approved.

The solar project has drawn opposition from neighbors concerned about the potential impact on property values and quality of life.

The trend: Developers have installed 1,491 megawatts of solar power in Pennsylvania as of the end of 2023, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

That is enough to power 195,365 homes, though it represents only 0.62% of the state’s energy sources.

Gov. Josh Shapiro is pushing a proposal to dramatically increase the amount of energy that comes from solar, wind and other alternative sources, including small nuclear reactors and clean natural gas. But the proposal faces skepticism in the legislature.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from the borough’s attorney.

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