Group pushes to save farmland

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

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 The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors (BOS) will hold public hearings on Wednesday, Feb. 14, for Conditional Use Permits for three proposed solar facilities.

Hearings for CPV County Line Solar, Charlotte Solar 1, LLC, and Charlotte Solar 2, LLC are expected to draw a large crowd of citizens voicing their opinions, so much so the meeting will be held at Randolph-Henry High School Auditorium.

One citizens group plans to have its voice heard on Wednesday night. 

Friends of Charlotte Inc. has been vocal in the past year and a half since starting the organization to save and protect the county’s farmland.

The organization’s Chairman, Daniel Dixon, explained in an interview with the Gazette how the Friends of Charlotte Inc. came to form. 

“With the moratorium the Board of Supervisors put in place in 2022 and the Tall Pines project having been approved shortly before, we all thought the solar development discussion in our end of the county (Madisonville) was over,” Dixon said. “All of that changed when public notices started flowing last summer. A few very concerned citizens gathered out on the patio one evening, and out of that gathering, the Friends of Charlotte was born. We had our first meeting as a large group on Oct. 4, and the response of citizens concerned with saving our farms and forests in our neck of the woods was overwhelming.”

Dixon said farmland is something they aren’t making any more and seems to be the most attractive to solar developers. 

“Our folks want to do everything possible to protect our farms forever,” he said. “One of the greatest outcomes of the organization of our group has been getting people involved in what’s going on within their local government.” 

According to Dixon, the organization is working to protect farmland in several ways. 

One is that of circulating old fashion paper petitions to let local government know that its citizens are not in favor of a new Comprehensive Plan that would potentially hurt farmland. 

“Our petition contests extinguishing Charlotte County’s rich agricultural history with a new Comprehensive Plan and ordinances more concerned with bike paths and sidewalks than beef cattle and soybeans,” Dixon said. 

Dixon said the current plan is built around rich agricultural history; however, the new plan doesn’t reference it until page 88.”

“Our petition asks for a reasonable solar development cap equivalent to what we are seeing other counties doing while also making an allowance for projects already approved if they end up being built,” he said. “Our petition also seeks to limit any future solar or energy storage projects to industrial land as in other counties.”

Dixon added that the group is particularly concerned that energy storage will become a runaway train, so they ask for strict limitations before this happens. 

The second way Friends of Charlotte, Inc. is working is by partnering with farmland conservation groups to bring conservation easement instruments to a traditionally underserved area.

“We are in the initial stages here, but plan to host a community meeting for Southern Virginia Land Conservancy this spring.” Dixon said. “Conservation easements protect farmland into the future that will reach far beyond the current threat of photovoltaic development.”