Residents speak on Moody Creek

Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019

During the March 21 public hearing, Charlotte County residents were afforded an opportunity to voice their opinions about the Planning Commission’s 2232 review of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The No. 2232 refers to Virginia Code § 15.2–2232 which states that the Commission must determine if the Moody Creek Solar Project “…is substantially in accord with the adopted comprehensive plan.”

Co-developers Apex Clean Energy and SolUnesco filed a conditional land use permit to construct the proposed 150MW solar facility in November 2018, just after the County had amended its solar ordinances in October 2018.

The project site is “…located on Route 47, Crafton’s Gate Highway, approximately 1.4 miles east of the intersection of U.S. Highway 360/15 and Route 47. Included Tax Parcels, owned by Devin Logging Company/John A. Devin, Jr. and Armistead Tune Devin are 81-A-14, 81-A-15, 81-A-16, 81-A-17, 81-A-18, 81-A-19, 81-A-20, 87-A-1 and 87-A-14 and consist of 1,683 acres. The facility would include 554,250 solar panels in fenced in areas totaling 829 acres and would connect to the Dominion Energy power grid through an existing transmission line.

The public hearing is the last step in the detailed review process before the Planning Commission presents its official recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

County resident Terry Ramsey addressed the gallery during the public comment portion of the hearing. Ramsey urged the Planning Commission to consider recommending revising the Comprehensive Plan to specifically include solar facilities.

Ramsey referred to comments he made during the public hearing on solar ordinances dated June11, 2018, “Prior to approving any additional solar energy facilities I recommend that the County’s Comprehensive Plan be updated to fully address solar energy facilities.”

Ramsey went on to ask what action the Planning Commission had taken in the last nine months to specifically address solar energy in the Plan. “The Plan does not once mention the word solar,” he said.

“How can you find the Moody Creek Solar project substantially in accord with a [Comprehensive] Plan that does not mention solar?

Ramsey also brought up the proposed buffers and setbacks associated with the project.

“The Moody Creek project proposes the minimum 25-foot landscaped buffer and 50-foot setback. The [Charlotte County] solar ordinance allows for conditions to require wider buffers and setbacks.

“Since the Comprehensive Plan does not specifically mention solar energy, a precedent will be set with this 1,600+ acre project having narrow buffers and setbacks. It will be difficult for the Commission to justify requiring wider buffers and setbacks on future projects as the Plan is silent. Moody Creek will set the standard.

“The best choice is to amend the Comprehensive Plan to specifically address solar energy and I encourage you to do that. An alternative is to include appropriate conditions in the Moody Creek permit. These conditions should recognize the huge size of the Moody Creek Solar project and include conditions such as a 100-foot landscaped buffer and a 150-foot setback.”

Charlie Johnson, Senior Development Manager for co-developer Apex Clean Energy also spoke at the hearing. He maintained that Apex and SolUnesco have and will continue to work toward a mutually satisfactory agreement for the realization of the Moody Creek Solar Facility.

Johnson said during a brief conversation that he anticipated a final approval in late April or even May. “Projects of this size do take time getting through the approval process properly, he said. “The County is doing exactly what it needs to do, and that is to be careful. It is better to go a little slower and be thorough now than to rush through [the approval process], miss an important item and have to stop, go back and address it. That just takes more time.”

The Planning Commission held a special called meeting to consider public comments and prepare a final recommendation for the board of supervisors.