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Board Holds Off On Solar Farm

Daily News-Record | Kellen Stepler |October 13, 2022
VirginiaZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar
“There are issues that need to be clarified on the site plan,” Miller said after the 20-minute closed session. “Most specifically, the area occupied and how that’s calculated ... so that’s going to need to be clarified before the board moves forward. “And also, what needs to be stated in the special-use permit, is whatever’s going to be done with this whole concept that was discussed at length about replacing trees that get cut with other trees planted somewhere else.”

A proposed large-scale solar farm will require some additional thought from the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors.
 
Sun Ridge Solar of Juno Beach, Fla., is seeking a special-use permit on the south side of U.S. 340, just east of Lynnwood Road near Port Republic.
 
After a public hearing on Wednesday where one person spoke for the project and three raised questions or concerns, District 5 Supervisor Michael Breeden made a motion to approve the solar array, which was seconded by District 4 Supervisor Bill Kyger.
 
But before a vote was taken, County Attorney Tom Miller asked the board to meet in closed session.
 
“There are issues that need to be clarified on the site plan,” Miller said after the 20-minute closed session. “Most specifically, the area occupied and how that’s calculated ... so that’s going to need to be clarified before the board moves forward.
 
“And also, what needs to be stated in the special-use permit, is whatever’s going to be done with this whole concept that was discussed at length about replacing trees that get cut with other trees planted somewhere else.”
 
The motion to approve was then withdrawn, and the board unanimously tabled the request.
 
The solar array would be no more than 150 acres, said Teddy Ivanco, project manager for Sun Ridge Solar. It would produce 50 megawatts of power and have a lifespan up to 35 years.
 
He said the area was the “best site in the county for solar,” as the project would rehabilitate a former gravel extraction site. There would be, essentially, no visibility from any sensitive viewpoint and no impact to agricultural land, Ivanco said.
 
A transmission line would be in the project’s boundary, eliminating miles of power lines connecting to a substation and inc ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]
     
A proposed large-scale solar farm will require some additional thought from the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors.
 
Sun Ridge Solar of Juno Beach, Fla., is seeking a special-use permit on the south side of U.S. 340, just east of Lynnwood Road near Port Republic.
 
After a public hearing on Wednesday where one person spoke for the project and three raised questions or concerns, District 5 Supervisor Michael Breeden made a motion to approve the solar array, which was seconded by District 4 Supervisor Bill Kyger.
 
But before a vote was taken, County Attorney Tom Miller asked the board to meet in closed session.
 
“There are issues that need to be clarified on the site plan,” Miller said after the 20-minute closed session. “Most specifically, the area occupied and how that’s calculated ... so that’s going to need to be clarified before the board moves forward.
 
“And also, what needs to be stated in the special-use permit, is whatever’s going to be done with this whole concept that was discussed at length about replacing trees that get cut with other trees planted somewhere else.”
 
The motion to approve was then withdrawn, and the board unanimously tabled the request.
 
The solar array would be no more than 150 acres, said Teddy Ivanco, project manager for Sun Ridge Solar. It would produce 50 megawatts of power and have a lifespan up to 35 years.
 
He said the area was the “best site in the county for solar,” as the project would rehabilitate a former gravel extraction site. There would be, essentially, no visibility from any sensitive viewpoint and no impact to agricultural land, Ivanco said.
 
A transmission line would be in the project’s boundary, eliminating miles of power lines connecting to a substation and increasing the facility’s reliability, Ivanco said.
 
The proposal avoids the Port Republic Battlefield Core Area and undisturbed portions of the study area, Ivanco said. County documents show that northern portions of the project area and its boundary overlap some of the study area for the Port Republic Battlefield, but Ivanco said that land has already been disturbed.
 
Ivanco said the array could generate enough electricity to power 20% of the county’s households. Following the 35-year lifespan, the project would be decommissioned and the land returned to a state suitable for future use.
 
What concerned some board members, however, were 30 acres that would need to be cleared. Tabling the item gives developers the chance to work with county staff to find a way to possibly replace trees that would be cut down to make way for the project.
 
It also gives Sun Ridge Solar officials the opportunity to be more clear as to how many acres the project will take up. The parcel is about 563 acres.
 
“It does pain me to think that we would be cutting 30 acres of hardwood for what is supposedly an environmental project,” said Kim Sandum, director of the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley. “I understand why the design is like that, but that seems to be going in the wrong direction.”
 
Sun Ridge Solar representatives did say they planned to implement a vegetative buffer, which would account for about 10 acres of hardwood trees.
 
Others noted how transparent and open the developers were. Sun Ridge Solar had an informational meeting in August at the Port Republic Town Hall, which was attended by Breeden and District 3 Supervisor Rick Chandler.
 
“Everybody there was satisfied with their environmental studies, wildlife studies. They’ve done a lot of homework, a lot of legwork,” said Paul Marshall, who lives adjacent to the project. “...We would rather have something like this back there than a housing development, whereas they’re not using our water, we don’t have light or noise pollution or traffic turning in on 340, as dangerous as it is.”
 
Wentworth Approved
 
In other business, the board approved a rezoning request that would make way for a 271-unit housing development between Stone Spring and Apple Valley roads.
 
The project, named the Wentworth, was proposed by Cathcart Properties Inc., of Charlottesville. The company also operates the Reserve at Stone Port and Bellaire at Stone Port.
 
Documents show seven apartment buildings with no more than 271 multifamily units. Cathcart Properties CEO Todd Dofflemyer said units would range from one to three bedrooms, and have amenities such as a clubhouse, pool, playground, dog park, multipurpose court, car wash and trash compactor.
 
Dofflemyer said the proposal is “an extension of our success of the other two adjacent communities.”
 
The apartments would be rental units, he said.
 
Rockingham County’s Planning Commission recommended approval of the development in September.
 
“This is very much in nature with their other projects out there,” Kyger said. “And if their other projects are any indication of the quality nature of this project, I do not think we’ll have any concern with that aspect of it. I’ve been pleased with their willingness to cooperate with the county and to answer questions and to work with us, and I feel that they are great partners in this community.”

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