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Halifax County supes consider solar development limits, tax breaks tonight

SoVaNow.com / February 05, 2018
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors will meet tonight with two public hearings on the agenda: one to consider a change in the county’s solar energy ordinance, the other to grant a partial tax exemption for MidAtlantic Broadband Corporation (MBC).

The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the second floor meeting room of the Mary Bethune Complex in Halifax.

Along with the public hearings, supervisors are expected to take up the question of whether to allow tax reductions for certain businesses or individuals.

First on the agenda is a public hearing on density limits for solar farm development. The county’s solar energy ordinance currently limits the footprint of solar farms to five percent of the land mass of any area of the county inside a five-mile radius.

Supervisors will consider an ordinance change that would further restrict solar farm development to 2.5 percent of a given area within a five-mile radius.

At least four companies that have applied for conditional use permits (CUP) for solar farm projects have asked the county not to change the existing ordinance. An attorney representing Cypress Creek, which is seeking to build a solar farm in the ---- area, told county planners that “the CUP gives the governing body control” and “if there too many solar farms in one area you can always deny any application.”

Other solar developers have noted that the permitting process gives the county the authority to deny applications on a case-by-case basis, and to decide if and when projects are appropriate.

However, the change is favored by some residents, such as a local couple with a pecan farm in the Nathalie community who worry that too many solar farms concentrated near their property may interfere with their plans to expand the operation.

If the ordinance amendment is approved, applications currently on file will not be affected. However, any new applications would have to conform to the revised ordinance, if changes are approved.

The second public hearing deals with a request by Mid Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) for a partial exemption from county taxes in the amount of $18,200.

County Administrator Jim Halasz is recommending that the public hearing be held, but he has advised supervisors to consult with the Finance Committee to develop a policy on tax exemptions, since MBC’s request may spur other such appeals by businesses or individuals.

Supervisors will also consider two other agenda items: first, approval of a resolution asking VDOT to change the traffic pattern of Edmunds Boulevard in the Town of Halifax to make it a one-way street. Under the change, traffic would flow into Edmunds Boulevard from Main Street and exit onto Mountain Road (State 360). The change is sought as part of the expansion of the courthouse; Edmunds Boulevard runs behind the courthouse square.

The second item is a report from VDOT on the status of the future of the historic Clarkton Bridge.

Supervisors also will consider an increase in the pay scale for county employees, retroactive to Jan. 1. Approval of the proposed salary scale would mean that new hires may come aboard at a slightly higher rate than what the county currently offers.

Supervisors also are being asked by local real estate developers to reimburse future real estate taxes as an incentive to encourage the building of more new homes. At least three local builders — John Cannon, A.B. Jones and Christian Roberts — have on several occasions asked the Halifax County Service Authority for reduced hook-up fees of $2,900 for water and sewer connections. All three have argued that the start-up costs for new residential homes has hurt economic development efforts.

The Board will consider several appointments, including naming two at-large members to the Industrial Development Authority since the terms of both Chris Lumsden and Butch Blanks expired at the end of January.

Supervisors are also expected to go into closed session to discuss buying certain real property on and around the Courthouse Square.

The Board’s Finance Committee will meet earlier this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to get an update on budget requests by Finance Director Stephanie Jackson.

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