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At the end of last month, a massive solar panel farm was given the green light to begin construction at Mercer County Community College as a result of a Superior Court ruling. A group of local residents were denied an injunction to block the project, which they argued would cause a decrease of property value and would negatively impact the appearance of their West Windsor neighborhood. While the judge held that the residents’ concerns about the project were legitimate, the court found that benefit/public good of this land use project outweighed those concerns.
At the heart of the residents’ argument was that since the application was not presented before the local municipal boards, the public did not have ample opportunity to be involved in the approval process. The Court found that since the College was located on county property, the only review that was necessary was before the Mercer County Planning Board, which signed off on the project.
The lawsuit followed several public hearings regarding the installation of this forty-five (45) acre solar array, where residents expressed concerns about the stormwater runoff that would be generated by this project. In addition, the West Windsor Mayor and Council wrote to public officials, including Governor Chris Christie, to force a review of the project in an effort to assuage resident concerns about alleged factual discrepancies involving the proposed plans. Ultimately, the project was approved and the residents given forty-five (45) days to appeal the ruling.
Our land use attorneys has been on both sides of disputes of this nature, assisting both land owners who wish to maximize the value of their property investments through development, and community groups endeavoring to preserve the character of their communities. From this unique perspective, we have been successful in helping our clients to bridge the gap between what are often seen as competing objectives.