Farms previous solar bid was withdrawn

BEDMINSTER - A township farm that was the subject of a fight over developing the property into a solar plant is being auctioned in September.

Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co. will be auctioning Kirby Farm on Country Club Road on Sept. 22, along with a property on Cherry Hill Road in Princeton, which is set to be auctioned on July 28. The Bedminster farm is able to be developed, while the Princeton property, which is in the Montgomery School District, is preserved.

In February, KDC, a solar company based in Bedminster, suspended its plans to build a solar panel plant on the 132-acre farm after residents created a campaign opposing developing the property. KDC would have built over 30,000 solar panels on the farm to transport energy under Interstate 287 into Sanofi in Bridgewater.

The environmental group Stop the Somerset Hills Power Plant said KDC's decision to withdraw its application to develop the Bedminster farm was a victory.

"It'll be most interesting to see who will buy it," said Joseph Metelski, former mayor of Bedminster and activist with Stop the Somerset Hills Power Plant.

The Kirby family, which owns the Bedminster farm, originally wanted to subdivide the property for development, but Bedminster capped each of the residential lots at a minimum of 10 acres to keep the property scenic as a part of the town's master plan. The family challenged it in court but lost to Bedminster in 2000.

"Maybe the Kirby family will consider all options to sell," Metelski said, adding that KDC's attempts to develop the land into a solar plant was "180 degrees from what the plans and zoning called for.
"It was a 10-acre residential zone, but they wanted to put an industrial site there. You couldn't be so far from the truth."

According to the Spann auction press release, "The Bedminster property, which features its own private pond, can serve as a family compound with multiple housing opportunities and has the potential to be subdivided."

Because of the court's ruling, the farm is in R10 residential zoning with minimum 10-acre lots.

Max Spann Jr. said that the Kirby family has tried to sell the property from several angles to no avail and "at this point they just want it sold." He can't speak for what the family is seeking, he said, but "their prime motivation is to sell it."

"The property can be developed, but it also is, I think, a prime candidate for some sort of preservation," he said. "We sell a lot of preserved farms and there is a very good market for that."
Spann said he grew up "around the corner" from the farm and "back in the day the pond there was beautiful, so it'd really be wonderful if someone preserved it."

"I always thought it'd be nice as a park or open space," Metelski said.

The final decision, however, will be up to the executors of the property, Spann said.

"The executors main goal is selling it," he said. "I'm sure they would love to see some put in preservation, but that's not what their objective is."

For more information on the properties, call 888-299-1438 for the information packages or visit maxspann.com.

Staff Writer Nick Muscavage: 908-243-6615; ngmuscavage@gannettnj.com