Proposed solar use amendments hearing held

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors and the Charlotte County Planning Commission held a joint public hearing Thursday regarding proposed zoning amendments for solar uses in the county.

During the public hearing, Charlotte Court House resident Terry Ramsey said he did not believe the county’s draft of the proposed zoning for solar uses protects the county and if the owner/ operator fails to decommission the facility.

He said in a written response from County Attorney Russell Slayton, it was advised if the County accepted responsibility for implementing the decommissioning plan, the County must secure easement rights from the party holding legal title.

“The Attorney also advises that the easement rights must run with title to the land, no matter how often ownership transfers,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey said he did not believe the draft “makes provision for the easements recommended by the County Attorney … I ask that the ordinance clearly state the landowner is required to record the necessary easements to provide the County legal access to the land should it be necessary for decommissioning.”

SolUnesco CEO Francis Hodsoll said many lawyers would say you don’t even need the easement right. He said if there is any violation, the right to go on the land is already there.

“This is an added layer of protection, we have no problem with it,” he said.

Hodsoll said it is a good way to doubly ensure the right to go on the land.

In addition, Ramsey also asked that the owner, operator and landowner all be held jointly liable for the removing or repairing the facility if the surety is not sufficient.

“The facility owner/ operator may be LLCs with no assets,” said Ramsey. “The land will always have value. The profiting landowner should share some of the risk and responsibility.”

During the hearing, Carolina Solar Energy Representative Christopher Jones said his company is looking into the county for the development of a large scale solar project.

He said the company has worked closely with Mecklenburg and Halifax counties in the past.

Jones said the company was looking at Charlotte County’s ordinance and said “we do think that you have landed in a very good spot that perfectly aligns with most of the other counties … my team and I looked through this and we can tell that you … have really taken some time to look into this …”

He said the current draft protects the County and the company, while not being restrictive.

Additionally, Hodsoll said he also thought the County had landed in a good place with the ordinance draft.

He said there are many projects in the que currently competing for contracts with companies buying energy.

“There’s a very strong demand,” said Hodsoll.

He said it’s good to move the projects forward at this time in the market so they can be competitive.

“We look forward to being a good neighbor here …” said Hodsoll. He said the project would most likely last 20-25 years, but it could last 30-35 years.

Following the public hearing, the Charlotte County Planning Commission held a special called meeting regarding the proposed zoning solar amendments.

During the meeting, County Purchaser and Planner Monica Elder said the same issues had already been sent to the Slayton and he indicated the easement issue “is something that would be addressed as proceeded through a conditional use permit application …”

Elder said it was not something that would be put in the ordinance, but established as procedure when reviewing the application.

In light of this, The Planning Commission proceeded to recommend the proposed ordinance to the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors as presented.

The Planning Commission previously met in August and continued discussion regarding proposed zoning amendments for solar uses in the county. A

ccording to County Purchaser and Planning Agent Monica Elder, only one change was made regarding the proposed zoning amendments during the meeting at that time, to add letters of credit.

She said the letters of credit would be additional way of guaranteeing the cost of decommissioning.

At that time, she said letters of credit included in the proposed amendments would be irrevocable letter of credit, meaning it cannot be canceled or modified unless all parties are in agreeance, including the buyer, seller and issuing bank.

“The Commission also voted to request that the Board of Supervisors schedule a new joint public hearing on the proposed amendments,” said Elder in August.