Solar development underway

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The future of solar is underway in Charlotte County, according to information presented by County Administrator Daniel Witt at a December meeting of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors.

Daniel N. Witt

In a report, Witt said “SolUnesco and Apex have submitted a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to discuss the application. It is estimated the CUP process will take 4-6 months.”

He said the staff is currently working to gather information about fees for the application.

“Once established, the fee structure would require a public hearing as it is part of the County Code,” said Witt.

He said construction for the Moody Creek Solar project would occur between spring or summer 2020.

“These are new businesses that want to locate in Charlotte County,” said Chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Gary Walker. “I think we need to be encouraging business to locate in Charlotte County and especially when we can find good revenue sources to help pay some of these other bills …”

He said he hoped a process could be found that would not take as long as six months.

Witt said the CUP process requires public hearings, which could be joint or held separately by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

“Solar use is so new …” he said.

Witt said because of this, the County wanted to look at areas such as setbacks and the surrounding neighbors to take into account their input.

He said it allows the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission to add conditions to the use.

Witt said the reason it takes 4-6 months is because “we don’t have the fee structure and we need to establish the fee structure. It’s so complicated that the staff believes that the Board will want a planning commission public hearing followed by a Board (of Supervisors) public hearing …”

He said when he met with SolUnesco, the timeline was not unrealistic for the company.

“We can’t do certain land surveys until we get our County permit, so we would hope that we can move forward as quick as we can …” said SolUnesco CEO Francis Hodsoll.

Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said solar is a new thing in the County and due diligence needs to be done.

“I think this is something we all support, but if we rush this process we might miss something …” said Phenix/Aspen Supervisor Donna Fore.

In June, 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.

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.

In July, the County Attorney provided an opinion regarding the decommissioning of utility-scale solar facilities and right of entry, according to Elder previously.

A motion was passed during the July meeting to include in the language that the project area be defined as the fenced in area and buffers only.

Following an Oct. 4 public hearing, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors approved the proposed solar use amendments as recommended by the Charlotte County Planning Commission.