Judge eclipses solar referendum

Published 4:34 pm Thursday, August 27, 2020

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A Randolph man’s mission to have citizens vote for or against large scale solar farms in Charlotte County has come to an end.

Wednesday, Aug. 12, Judge Kimberly White heard Stuart Topp’s request for his referendum to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot, but was denied.

“We went on good faith that the petition that was approved by this court and the county registrar’s office, and the head of voter registration in Richmond was valid,” Topp said in an email following the decision. “I presented our case against large scale solar farms, (these are anything but farms), but the other side prevailed.”

According to Topp, Judge White did not find two words that needed to be in the state legislative bylaws that would allow the citizens the right to get the referendum on the ballot, thereby denying Topps request.

Topp, who relocated to the county after living in Hawaii for almost 30 years, said he needed 810 signatures on a petition. He obtained 917 signatures.

In May, Topp was the only citizen to address the Board of Supervisors during a public hearing on a proposed large utility-scale solar facility by Solunesco in the Randolph area on land owned by J.A. Devin and his family.

“We came here because it was peaceful, with natural beauty and an abundant amount of natural wildlife,” Topp said. “I’m here today to sound the alarm that all of these things are about to be decimated forever. This is one of the largest solar fields proposed anywhere. 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.”

In an advertisement in this edition of The Charlotte Gazette, landowner J.A. Devin states, “Stuart Topp misunderstood Virginia law and spread misinformation about solar, the Randolph Solar project and what a local referendum would actually mean for the county. The truth is solar is safe, the tax revenues will benefit every taxpayer, and solar provides jobs and economic development that we need.”

According to Solunesco an estimated 3,800 acres will be developed and fenced in for solar equipment. The Randolph Project currently has site control over approximately 10,600 acres of land, and the developed acres will be situated within that footprint.

Construction of this $600 million facility is expected to begin in 2023, providing enough electricity to power more than 81,000 homes.