Comprehensive plan under review

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Charlotte County’s Comprehensive Plan (Plan) is currently under review by the Planning Commission. Review of the Plan, which was adopted in 2016 is required by Virginia Code § 15.2 – 2232. (2232). The purpose of the review is to decide if the proposed Moody Creek Solar Project is in compliance with the provisions of the plan. The 1,683 acre site planned for the large solar facility is off Route 47, approximately 1.4 miles east of the intersection of U.S. Routes 360/15 and Route 47. The zoning district of the proposed project is currently listed as general agriculture.

During a recent special meeting the Planning Commission reviewed the application for conditional land use permit and determined that there was sufficient reason to complete the 2232 review.

The Planning Commission released an in-depth staff analysis following the meeting. The report began by recognizing two solar zoning amendments created by the Planning Commission that were approved by the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors in 2018. The amendments were adopted in anticipation of the application for conditional land use for Moody Creek. The analysis went on to list the following areas that may hold potential compliance issues;
Other issues, according to the Planning Commission’s Staff analysis were,
“The application indicates that multiple fenced in areas of panels will be located on the property. Corridors between these fenced in areas will accommodate wetlands, creeks and flood plains and will also serve as corridors for wildlife. The Planning Commission will need a clear understanding of whether existing vegetative cover will remain in these areas and how they will be maintained over time. In addition, the County will need to ensure that all land disturbance activities are conducted in accordance with an approved erosion & sediment control plan, an approved storm water management plan is in place, and necessary site inspections are being performed.”
“The project is located on a Virginia Scenic Byway (Route 47) with one of the parcels having approximately 570’ of road frontage. Scenic Byways are designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board and are designed to bypass high-speed routes while providing a diverse mix of scenic experiences for travelers. One of the criteria of this designation is the local government’s initiation of zoning or other land-use controls to reasonably protect the aesthetic and cultural value of the highway.”
“In addition, there are a large number of adjacent parcels, which are located in both Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties. The closest residence is located over 1000’ from the project limits. Distance combined with buffers will help minimize the visual impact. The project will connect to the Dominion Power grid through an existing 115kV transmission line that crosses the site. However, the project will require the construction of an on-site step-up substation, which allows for the voltage of the power produced to be stepped up to the transmission line voltage and a utility-owned switching station, which allows the power to go onto the transmission grid. The Planning Commission will need to consider the visual impact of new facilities to determine if proposed setbacks and buffers are sufficient. In accordance with the Charlotte County Zoning Ordinance, the Planning Commission may recommend that the Board of Supervisors increase required setbacks or buffers as a condition of permit approval.”
Due to the nature of the review and the wide range of issues considered and in the interest of transparency, the Planning Commission ruled to schedule a public hearing “to determine whether the proposed Moody Creek Solar Project is substantially in accordance with the adopted comprehensive plan pursuant to Virginia Code §15.2 – 2232.