Tabernacle abandons long-considered landfill solar project

The decision comes after a legal technicality required the Township Committee to discuss

After a complicated meeting on March 22, Tabernacle’s Township Committee will likely not move forward with a previously considered solar project.

The committee was in discussion with CEP Renewables LLC., a group that proposed building a solar farm on the now-defunct landfill on Old Indian Mills Road but voted to abandon the project after considering other uses for the land.

Discussion on the project began with an unplanned vote, suggested by Mayor Kimberly Brown, to have the township’s Land Development Board carry out a survey on the landfill to determine if it could be categorized as an area in need of redevelopment. This categorization would allow CEP Renewables to move forward with its plan.

The initial vote passed quickly but was deemed illegitimate because it was not a written resolution, so the committee continued its discussion. If not a solar farm, the landfill could be used to house Public Works.

Committee Member Joseph Barton opposed the solar project, noting that CEP Renewables was not present to answer questions and has not provided specifics regarding the cost to the township.

“We’re about to vote on spending significant funds and time on professionals,” he said. “We don’t even know if CEP will still be interested at the end of the day.”

CEP Renewables previously agreed to cover all costs, including capping the landfill, which comes with a hefty price tag. However, the company requested the township make a decision by the end of March, something that’s now impossible to achieve.

According to state law, all unused landfills must be capped, but Tabernacle’s landfill sat uncapped for more than 20 years without issue. Capping the landfill would cost nearly $700,000, according to Environmental Consultant Douglas Stuart.

Brown explained that if the Land Development Board were to complete a survey and the township eventually voted against the solar project, taxpayers would be responsible for those costs.

“[CEP] can’t give us money right now because we have no contract with them whatsoever so this money that we would be spending with the land development board and beyond is on our dime, not theirs,” she said.

After a roughly two minute reading of the resolution, the committee voted again. This time, the resolution did not pass.

Committee Member Nancy McGinnis was the sole yes vote for the Land Development Board survey. She expressed her disappointment in an email statement to The Sun. She maintained that the solar project would have created jobs, increased property values, lessened the tax burden and more.

“It would’ve been a win-win for our town,” she wrote. “It seems that storing dirt there is more important than addressing this environmental hazard.”

Committee Member Robert Sunbury had originally voted yes to the survey but changed his vote.

“I’m not adverse to the idea of solar,” he said. “Even if we want to keep the land, at the end of the day, we’d still have to pay for the landfill. As far as I can see right now, we’re not going to have money to do that.”

“I’m going to have to say no now because I just don’t see this moving forward. I’m just frustrated with the whole process,” he added.