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Solar farm ordinance passes

The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted 6 to 1 Monday, June 8 to approve a zoning amendment change that will allow for more density in the construction of utility-scale solar farms in a five-mile radius.

The county’s current zoning ordinance limits the density of utility-scale solar to 3% in any given five-mile radius.

Recently SolUnesco has expressed an interest in constructing a utility-scale solar facility that exceeds the current density in the Randolph area.

During the public comment portion of the meeting Chairman Hamlett, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, read a statement from Jason Foster.

“Zoning laws are put in place for a number of reasons, safety being one of, if not the most important,” Foster’s letter read. “Sometimes safety issues are not readily apparent and sometimes unforeseen safety issues arise after the fact.”

Foster used the example of a 2013 fire at a fertilizer distribution facility in Texas that resulted in a chemical explosion killing 15 people and injuring more than 160 nearby.

“Let me be clear, I’m certain that a solar farm is not going to create an explosion hazard,” Foster said. “Nonetheless, I cannot say with certainty that other hazards or other unforeseen accident scenarios will not be created. I recommend that the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors make every effort to fully investigate and fully understand any and all possible implications that changes to zoning laws may have, especially regarding public safety.”

During a joint public hearing between the BOS and county planning commission on May 28.

Stuart Topp, who lives in Randolph, was the only citizen to speak concerning the proposal.

“I’m here today to sound the alarm that all of these things are about to be decimated forever,” he said.

Topp said Solunesco is trying to get a density more than double the 7% allowed by the zoning ordinance.

“This is one of the largest solar fields proposed anywhere,” Topp said.” It will not only forever change the landscape of the Randolph area but will open the door for larger solar fields, that may well turn Charlotte County into one giant solar field, which will destroy the beauty of our environment.”

With the new zoning change, the BOS may approve a denser area and establish a maximum density permitted for utility-scale solar energy farms. This change does not approve the Randolph area solar farm itself.

SolUnesco must apply for various permits and public hearings must be held before the BOS can vote on the approval of the project.

According to details listed for the Randolph Solar project, there would be 10,763 total acres under site control, with 4,900 acres buildable.

SolUnesco currently has a conditional use permit for the Moody Creek Solar project located in the county.

The Moody Creek Solar project calls for the construction of a 150-megavolt utility-scale solar facility (equivalent to 25,000 homes worth of energy). The proposed site, owned by Devin Logging Company/John A. Devin, Jr. & Armistead Tune Devin, is located on Route 47, Crafton’s Gate Highway, approximately 1.4 miles east of the traffic light at the intersection of Highway 360/15 and Route 47.

The Moody Creek project is set to be constructed on property that is approximately 1,655 acres in size.