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Conditions at solar sites draw scrutiny of Mecklenburg supervisors

SoVaNow.com / March 11, 2020
In a short business meeting Monday, the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors agreed to revisit conditions included in Mecklenburg County’s zoning and comprehensive plans for solar facilities.

The move came after County Administrator Wayne Carter said his office started receiving complaints about the condition of the Grasshopper construction site in Chase City. During the permitting process, Grasshopper’s developers told supervisors that much of the land would be undisturbed as workers installed panels across 500 acres at the corner of Highways 47 and 49.

That is not the case, Carter said — in fact, “there is not a blade of grass left inside the fenced area.” Construction trucks are tracking large amounts of mud on town roads, Carter advised board members.

Supervisor Jim Jennings added that Butcher’s Creek, which sits next to the site, flowed red after recent storms sent mud from the scalped ground flooding into the tributary.

Carter suggested adding a provision to the zoning code that would limit the amount of acreage that could be laid bare during the construction process. Projects would have to be built in phases and no new phase could begin until the ground under the previous phase is replanted and shows sign of growth.

In other business, Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said work is progressing at the construction site for the consolidated secondary school in Baskerville. Trees have been cleared and dirt is being moved, but it will probably be early fall before there is any significant evidence of construction, said Nichols. He assured supervisors the project is on schedule and on budget.

Nichols said if any supervisor would like to visit the construction site, he or she must don a hardhat and safety vest and sit through a safety program before heading to the site. He said it was best if the visit was arranged through the School Board’s head of operations, Brian Dalton.

Supervisors awarded a contract to build a new parking lot at the Hudgins Court Facility on Madison Street to J.A. Barker Construction. The cost for the project is $908,511.1. Also, Biggs Construction has been selected to install a waterline to the Prison Road industrial site in Boydton. The cost for that project is $516,610.31.

Tommy Johnson, Residency head for VDOT in South Hill announced that work to lengthen the turn lane at the Highway 58 and Highway 92 intersection would start on April 1. He would be coming to the board soon to discuss updates to the County road paving 6-year plan.

The VDOT district that includes Mecklenburg County will end the year with an $11.3 million surplus because of the mild winter. Johnson said he is waiting to hear, how much, if any of that money will be distributed to the County for road projects.

David Brankley announced plans to hold a meeting of the secondary roads committee on March 24. Brankley chairs the committee that decides the order in which roads are paved in Mecklenburg County.

Jenny Whittemore and Judy Sheffield said the library in Boydton is still looking for volunteers to help with the Wall that Heals project. It is a mobile exhibit that includes a ¾-scale replica of the Viet Nam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, D.C. and a mobile classroom with information about Viet Nam, the more than 58,000 veterans whose names appear on the wall and photos of local service members whose names appear on the wall.

The exhibit arrives in Mecklenburg County April 2 and will be set up in Boydton at the Community Ball Park through April 5.

In addition to volunteers willing to man the site during the entirety of its visit, Sheffield said the County is encouraging people to line the streets, waving flags as a show of support for the memorial. She said more Mecklenburg County Public Library in Boydton will offer more information about the route the exhibit will travel to Boydton as the arrival date gets closer.

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is donating men and equipment to help assemble the wall and Sheriff Bobby Hawkins said his office will be providing security. More help is needed. Volunteers are encouraged to contact Connie Boyd at the Boydton Library at (434) 738-6580.

Glenn Barbour shared good news that Lake Gaston appears to be winning the battle with the hydrilla weed. It is an invasive aquatic weed that threatens native plant species nd aquatic wildlife. Barbour said according to the most recent reports Lake Gaston now has only 168 acres of weed, down from a peak of 1,500 acres in 2012.

Barbour said much of the success is due to the work of volunteers who perform a “rake toss” in which they drag the lake looking for and removing the hydrilla plants. Last year these volunteers performed over 6,000 rake tosses, Barbour said.

Terry Preston was seeking help from Supervisors with a noise problem. She said neighbors Jerry and Margaret Askew living at 631 Oak Road in Brodnax have a propane cannon that fires off every 45 second from 5:45 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. 7 days a week.

Preston said even worse the cannon is pointed at her and her husband’s bedroom window and she said it is so loud it can be heard at homes more than three miles away.

Preston handed Supervisors a petition signed by nearly 150 neighbors who are equally disturbed by the propane cannon on Oak Road.

Sam Walker who also lives near the Askews shared a similar concern adding that he and his wife have not had a good night’s sleep in over two years since the cannon firing began. The boom rattles his windows and walls. Walker said “it sounds like a gunshot going off in your house. Friends are scared to come over.”

According to Preston and Walker, Askew claims he needs the cannon to protect the exotic animals he collects.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s office has received numerous complaints about the noise. Deputies who visited the Askew home asked the family to lessen the frequency and volume, but they did not comply.

Preston said the cannon constitutes a nuisance under section 38 of the County ordinances even though she said Commonwealth Attorney Allen Nash explained that the County’s noise ordinance only applies to loud music.

Preston and Walker are asking Supervisors to try to find a way to help them with this dilemma and encouraged them to look at Virginia Code section 15.2-918 which gives localities the ability to regulate the use of air cannons by limiting the degree of sound or decibel level produced.

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