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Person County rejects another massive solar farm as local resistance continues

American City Business Journals| Evan Hoopfer |September 8, 2022
North CarolinaImpact on LandscapeZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar

"This is a difficult position for the community to be in because no one wants to deny someone the right to do what they want with their property," Commissioner PJ Gentry said before the vote. "But when the rights of one property owner impact other property owners, that's why we have zoning laws and zoning ordinances." After the commissioners voted to deny the rezoning – which was unanimous – several members of the audience applauded.


The vote was the latest episode between the solar industry and local government and resident sentiment in Person County.

The Person County Board of Commissioners rejected plans for a nearly 800-acre solar farm Tuesday, just weeks after denying another request for a similarly sized project.

The rezoning request was made by Plateau Solar, an LLC connected with Asheville-based Pine Gate Renewables, on behalf of property owners who wanted to use their land to host a solar facility. The group sought to rezone 798 acres to allow for construction of a facility that would generated 65 megawatts of power near the intersection of Hurdle Mills and Satterfield roads in the southern portion of the county.

"This is a difficult position for the community to be in because no one wants to deny someone the right to do what they want with their property," Commissioner PJ Gentry said before the vote. "But when the rights of one property owner impact other property owners, that's why we have zoning laws and zoning ordinances."

After the commissioners voted ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

The vote was the latest episode between the solar industry and local government and resident sentiment in Person County.

The Person County Board of Commissioners rejected plans for a nearly 800-acre solar farm Tuesday, just weeks after denying another request for a similarly sized project.

The rezoning request was made by Plateau Solar, an LLC connected with Asheville-based Pine Gate Renewables, on behalf of property owners who wanted to use their land to host a solar facility. The group sought to rezone 798 acres to allow for construction of a facility that would generated 65 megawatts of power near the intersection of Hurdle Mills and Satterfield roads in the southern portion of the county.

"This is a difficult position for the community to be in because no one wants to deny someone the right to do what they want with their property," Commissioner PJ Gentry said before the vote. "But when the rights of one property owner impact other property owners, that's why we have zoning laws and zoning ordinances."

After the commissioners voted to deny the rezoning – which was unanimous – several members of the audience applauded.

"We're disappointed by the board’s decision," a Pine Gate Renewables spokesperson said in a statement. "Our project would have created hundreds of local jobs, contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue to the county, provided revenue to local businesses, and saved money for ratepayers."

Tuesday's vote was the latest episode between the solar industry and local government and resident sentiment in Person County.

In August, the board of commissioners denied a special use permit that would have allowed for construction of a 920-acre solar farm called Berea Solar – also proposed by Pine Gate Renewables. During that same meeting, the board also voted to enact a six-month moratorium on new solar development to rework its policies around solar projects – the moratorium did not apply to the board's ability to hear the Plateau Solar request because that process was already in motion when the moratorium was imposed. The board enacted a similar moratorium last year and several changes were made to the county's solar development ordinances.

Before Tuesday's vote on Plateau Solar by the board of commissioners, the county's planning board had voted to not recommend the rezoning. The planning board said the community did not support the project and it would reduce the amount of land available for agricultural use and therefore result in a reduction of jobs and income for farmers.

Tom Terrell, a partner at Fox Rothschild out of Greensboro representing the property owners who were in favor of the solar project, spoke during Tuesday's meeting about what he said were "misstatements, errors and irrelevant matters that have been made and continue to be made in these public hearings on Berea and Plateau."

Speakers in public hearings have brought up the fact solar panels for these projects may be made in China.

"Such a focus on China, only when it comes to a solar panel, is puzzling, not to mention extremely hypocritical," Terrell said. "It is absolutely impossible to live in our society today without owning or benefitting from electronic devices from China and other parts of Asia. And I'm not just talking about the cell phones every single person in this room uses or benefits from."

After Terrell and others supporting the project spoke, several Person County residents spoke up against the Plateau Solar project, saying it would cut down trees and harm nearby property values, among other reasons.

The vote came one day before the federal government detailed ways to dramatically boost solar development. The U.S. Department of Energy released a study Wednesday that laid out the steps necessary for solar power to produce more than 40 percent of the nation's electricity by 2035. Today, solar accounts for about 3 percent of county's electrical supply, the study said.

Content truncated due to possible copyright. Use source link for full article.


Source:https://www.bizjournals.com/t…

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