Supervisors deny community solar facility appeals

A public hearing was held at the Monday morning Board of Supervisors meeting to consider over turning a decision made the Planning Commission to deny two Comprehensive Plan Review applications submitted by Mecklenburg CSG 1, LLC. and Mecklenburg CSG 2, LLC. 

The first application was for a 6.72-megawatt solar facility to be located on Noblin Farm Road, 285 feet south of the Noblin Road and Highway 58 Bypass in Clarksville.

The Planning Commission denied the application based on its close proximity to the Town limits. 

The land, owned by Gordan Brothers Farm, LLC, would house a 25.67 acre solar facility on a 233.77 acre piece of land. Dimension Renewable Energy Director of Development Kieran Saio explained that the project would sit on a small portion of the land and would be hidden by “fast growing vegetation”. 

Matt Roberts with Bean, Kinney, & Korman, P.C., representing Mecklenburg CSG 1, LLC, said that they believe the Planning Commission made an error in denying the application. 

“The Comprehensive Plan says that it has a preference for projects to be beyond that 1-mile boundary but it does go on to say that if a project is near the boundary, it should have additional mitigation. It should smaller in size and provide additional screening and buffering. We meet both as Kieran pointed out. Both in terms of project size being much smaller than traditional utility scale solar projects, as well as providing that screening and buffering.” 

Greg Gordan, part owner of Gordan Brothers Farm, LLC, said that the project was out of Town limits and that the Clarksville Town Manager and Members of Council had been out to see the property and to his knowledge had no future plans for the site as it relates to the Town. “This site provides near-town diversification. It is quiet and neighborhood friendly. It is low impact improvement that does not burden our surface water or ground water sources. The Comprehensive Plan should be used to scrutinize applications, not be used to discriminate against landowners in our county.” 

Clarksville Vice Mayor Bruce Woemer spoke against the solar project saying that the Town is adamantly against putting a solar facility within one mile of the limits. “We are asking you all to uphold what the Planning Commission voted on and decided that it should not be put within a one mile radius of our town. If so, we set a precedent that will affect all of our towns.” 

Patrick Newton, a Noblin Road resident, also spoke against the facility submitting a petition that included 16 names of adjoining property owners who are also against the project. 

Gordan Brothers Farm, LLC part owner, Eric Gordan, asked Bruce Woemer to explain why the Town of Clarksville is adamantly against the project. Board Chairman Glenn Barbour interjected saying that the question was inappropriate. Citizens signed up for public comment are allowed three minutes to address the Board. The Board is not required to respond and all comments and questions are to be asked directly to the Board of Supervisors.

Clarksville area representative, Andy Hargrove, made the motion to deny the appeal based on feedback that he had gotten from his constituents. “My reasoning for denying the application is because of the 2232 Comp Plan and also to not deny the residents who live in that area. Those are my two factors that brought the decision”

The Board voted unanimously to deny the appeal.

A second community solar facility, located in Chase City was proposed and denied at the Planning Commission meeting. The 24.41-acre solar project would sit on 121.5 acres of land owned by the Michael Garnett Trust. The property is located on Highway 92 at the Skipwith Road intersection.

The Mecklenburg CSG 2, LLC project was denied by the Planning Commission based on its close proximity to the Town of Chase City. 

Chase City Mayor Alden Fahringer says that the Town has worked with Dimension and like how the project is laid out. Fahringer says that the Town requires the facility to be maintained and kept out of sight from the roadway. “We want see them hiring local. We want to see some kind of a commitment with the Town to support events and be a partnership with the Town. We want to see that there are cleanup efforts in place. We want to see truck washing stations and a boot washing station to prevent mud being spread through Town and in local businesses.”

Greg Gordan spoke in support of the Chase City project. “It’s nice to see a town that cares about what you’re trying to do for the local area. I think for a Town to try to control what is going on outside of town limits, when they won’t even talk to the landowners or engage them, is totally ridiculous.”

Bruce Woemer spoke again stating that he had a right to disagree with Greg Gordan. “I respect Greg’s position here but he is one person. I’ve got 16 names on that petition that have land just as close as his is. I want to respect Greg and I would not do a thing in the world to hurt his property; I just do not like solar farms.”

Glenn Barbour said that he could not understand how the regulations and requirements set up by the Town of Chase City could be enforced.

Jim Jennings made the motion to deny the appeal based on the close proximity to the Town of Chase City and the opposition of the residents. The motion passed with six in favor of denying the appeal, one vote against the denial, and one abstained. Charles Jones voted against the appeal and Claudia Lundy abstained.