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Catawba County board rejects rezoning for 140-acre solar farm

Hickory Daily Record|Virginia Annable|April 19, 2022
North CarolinaZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar
Commissioner Sherry Butler said she had concerns about runoff from the solar farm into the South Fork River. She made a motion for the request to be denied. The board — Randy Isenhower, Austin Allran, Kitty Barnes and Barbara Beatty — unanimously approved her motion to deny. After the meeting, when asked why he denied the request, Isenhower said he agreed with some of Butler’s concerns and the land use. Allran said he agreed with the concerns brought before the board and he was not in favor of rezoning the land.

Catawba County leaders rejected a rezoning request that would have made way for a 140-acre solar farm and 125 acres of conserved land.
 
Blackburn Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, asked for 635 acres in southern Catawba County to be rezoned to a rural conditional zoning to allow for a solar farm along Hickory Lincolnton Highway. The request was recommended for approval by the Catawba County Planning Board, but the Catawba County Board of Commissioners unanimously denied the request at Monday’s meeting, citing concerns brought by five speakers at the public hearing.
 
The solar farm was planned to encompass about 310 acres of the property. The solar panels could sit on about 140 of those acres, according to the rezoning application. NextEra has been searching for a location and planning the project since 2018, said Nick Tosco, a lawyer at the Charlotte law firm of Poyner Spruill who represented NextEra.
 
The plans for the solar farm included vegetative and land buffers around the property and a 125-acre ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]
     
Catawba County leaders rejected a rezoning request that would have made way for a 140-acre solar farm and 125 acres of conserved land.
 
Blackburn Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, asked for 635 acres in southern Catawba County to be rezoned to a rural conditional zoning to allow for a solar farm along Hickory Lincolnton Highway. The request was recommended for approval by the Catawba County Planning Board, but the Catawba County Board of Commissioners unanimously denied the request at Monday’s meeting, citing concerns brought by five speakers at the public hearing.
 
The solar farm was planned to encompass about 310 acres of the property. The solar panels could sit on about 140 of those acres, according to the rezoning application. NextEra has been searching for a location and planning the project since 2018, said Nick Tosco, a lawyer at the Charlotte law firm of Poyner Spruill who represented NextEra.
 
The plans for the solar farm included vegetative and land buffers around the property and a 125-acre donation to the Catawba Lands Conservancy. The land planned for the donation sat along the South Fork River and would have been part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a regional network of trails connecting area counties.
 
At Monday’s public hearing, nearby residents voiced their concerns. Some said they worried about contamination from the solar farm, others said they were concerned about electric and magnetic fields that could be produced by the solar farms.
 
Paul Gadd lives near the property. He said he did not think it was the best use for the land when there was a high need for housing. “I am for positive growth and progressive growth, but this request does not meet either,” Gadd said.
 
Paula Love said she wanted the agricultural land to be preserved.
 
“I want you to think about our (county) seal and I want you to think about that cow,” she said to the board of commissioners. “That is our heritage. That is our way of life.”
 
Commissioner Sherry Butler said she had concerns about runoff from the solar farm into the South Fork River. She made a motion for the request to be denied. The board — Randy Isenhower, Austin Allran, Kitty Barnes and Barbara Beatty — unanimously approved her motion to deny.
 
After the meeting, when asked why he denied the request, Isenhower said he agreed with some of Butler’s concerns and the land use. Allran said he agreed with the concerns brought before the board and he was not in favor of rezoning the land.

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Source:https://hickoryrecord.com/new…

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