Solar amendments still underway

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A recommendation regarding the future of solar projects in Charlotte County is still underway, pending the finalization of a solar amendments recommendation from the Charlotte County Planning Commission.

“Following the public hearing June 11, the Planning Commission requested a legal opinion from the County Attorney regarding the County’s right to enter property to carry out the decommissioning of utility-scale solar facilities as provided for in the proposed amendments,” said County Planner and Purchasing Agent Monica Elder. “Once the Planning Commission receives an opinion from the attorney, they will continue working on finalizing their recommendation regarding the proposed amendments.”

In June, a joint public hearing between the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors and the Charlotte County Planning Commission resulted in no recommendation to the Supervisors at their June meeting regarding solar use amendments in the county.

At that time, Elder anticipated the matter would come before the Board of Supervisors at their July meeting, however, Elder said a response is still pending from the attorney.

A recommendation regarding solar uses in the county has been tabled several times previously, in light of concerns surrounding the language of the amendments.

At an April meeting of the Charlotte County Planning Commission, action regarding the previous proposed zoning amendments was tabled.

“They requested an assessment to determine the capacity of Charlotte County’s existing transmission lines and associated infrastructure in order to gain a better understanding of the amount of solar development that the existing transmission lines could support,” said Elder previously in March.

During that time, Elder noted that a joint public hearing was originally set for March 12 to receive public comment regarding the finalized proposed amendments.

After the hearing was advertised, Elder previously noted she was approached by several individuals with concerns, among them solar companies Carolina Solar and SolUnesco, with whom she met to discuss the concerns.

“Because the hearing had already been advertised, we didn’t feel like we could cancel the hearing at that time … Elder said in March. However, the hearing was canceled due to inclement weather.”

During the March meeting of the Planning commission, concerns were raised by SolUnesco CEO Francis Hodsoll, who spoke at the meeting regarding solar farms in the county.

SolUnesco is a Virginia-based company that develops utility scale solar farms.

He said his company had looked at the possibility of a solar farm project in Charlotte County.

During that time, Hodsoll said the proposed changes to the solar farm ordinance could eliminate the possibility of tens of millions of dollars in revenues for Charlotte firms. It could also eliminate any future solar farms.

“We propose providing the county with an independent economic study demonstrating how a large solar project could benefit Charlotte County,” said the company at the March meeting.