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Chase City draws rebuke on solar stance

SoVaNow.com / July 12, 2017
Chase City Town Council heard from resident Katherine Keel about her concerns with encircling the town with solar farms at the Monday night meeting of the governing body.

“I am disappointed” with the decision by Council to support the installation of three large solar farms around Chase City, Keel said. She was referring to the vote Town Council took at last month’s meeting to green-light requests from three groups to install utility grade solar farms: two on Spanish Grove Road and the third on Mac Bailey’s farm on Highways 49 and 47.

Keel’s historic farmstead abuts the Mac Bailey property.

She said while she received sufficient concessions from the Grasshopper group — the name of the solar farm looking to purchase Bailey’s 946 acres — to provide setbacks and screenings, she was concerned for the town. In particular, Keel asked would these projects impact future growth, the environment and the aesthetics of Chase City area.

She further noted that solar farms do not generate large numbers of permanent jobs and asked how the industry will benefit the town in the long run.

In June, a majority of Council agreed to send a letter to the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors and planning commission indicating the town’s approval of the three solar farms, despite the knowledge that these farms would encircle two-thirds of Chase City’s land area and impact potential development for the next 40 years. Council members Marshall “Tommy” Whittaker and Lisa Gillispie voted against the recommendation.

None of the proposed farms are within the town limits of Chase City. Therefore, the final decision as to whether the county will permit any or all of the farms rests with supervisors.

The Berkley Group, a consultant hired by the county, issued a preliminary report identifying 11 points the members of the planning commission should consider before approving any of the zoning permits, and in particular the grasshopper project.

1. Large area and scale of the project (946 acres)

a) Impact on adjoining properties and the character of the area

b) Unknown impact on property values

2. Frontage on both Route 47 (designated scenic byway) and Route 49

a) Visibility/Buffers

b) Gateways into town

3. The project site is a well-established, significant agricultural use with fenced pasture (loss of agricultural land)

4. Residential uses in area (existing and future potential)

5. Properties zoned for industrial uses nearby (across Route 49)

6. The project site would enclose approximately one quarter of the Town - when you add in Bluestone and the new project it encloses over 2/3 of town

7. Close to Bluestone

a) Factor – Encirclement of Town

b) Inhibiting future agricultural and residential growth in or near Town

8. Application proposes minimal conditions

a) No Concept Plan condition

b) No buffer/screening condition

c) Minimum setbacks

d) Significant portion of property covered

e) No detailed decommissioning plan

f) Questions about the reliability of the decommissioning cost estimate

g) No meaningful provision for cash escrow surety/security for decommissioning costs

h) No explanation of reason for location of the wildlife corridor

9. No 2232 Review (review by county planning commission)

10. Unknown fiscal impact

11. No significant employment

The county planning commission is holding a public hearing Thursday night, at 7:30 p.m. in the supervisors conference room in Boydton about the Grasshopper project.

In other business, Council agreed to participate in the Virginia Growth Alliance consortium aimed at attracting new retail businesses to the area. The cost of their participation is $2,720.16.

Pauline Keeton thanked the town for helping her facilitate reports to the railroad tracks in town.

The public is invited to give input on whether to encircle Woodland Cemetery with a fence, the cost will be paid from monies donated to the town for upkeep of the Cemetery. The next Council meeting is set for Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Council also agreed to move ahead with repairs to the mausoleums and storage shed roofs siding at Woodland Cemetery. The contract was awarded to Brankley Construction at a cost of $46,200. The monies for this work will also come from the funds donated to the town for upkeep of Woodland.

Repair work to the sewers in downtown Chase City continues as road crews continue to find new areas to repair. Mayor Eddie Bratton expressed hope that the work would be wrapped up soon but could not state, with certainty, when that would happen.

Council also approved a revision to the town’s weed cutting ordinance which requires all properties, vacant or occupied, within the corporate limits maintain their grasses and weeds to a limited height.

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