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Powell’s Creek Farm solar addresses neighbors’ concerns / March 22, 2018
The third story-view from a house adjacent to the proposed Powell’s Creek Farm Solar Project was the cause of headaches and angst for Carolina Solar and the Halifax County Planning Commission at Tuesday night’s regular meeting.

Although the commission unanimously approved a recommendation of the Powell’s Creek project, parcels 1-5, to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors (with one condition), it took the efforts of Carolina Solar CEO Jerry Dudzik, project manager Chris Jones, attorney Beth Trahos, and Ballantine Associates engineer George Retschle to allay concerns of neighbors and gain planners’ approval.

Powell’s Creek Farm Solar, LLC, owned by Carolina Solar Energy, submitted a Conditional Use Permit application to install a 70-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility on a five-parcel site totaling 610 acres located on Hendricks Road and Alton Post Office Road.

Thomas and Dawn Hendricks live on property immediately adjacent to the parcels identified in the Powell’s Creek Conditional Use Permit application. The five identified parcels border the Hendricks’ 83-acre property on three sides. Two homes are situated on this property, both in close proximity to the proposed solar farm.

The Hendricks’ primary complaint is the horizon-to-horizon view of the center of the solar farm project from their third floor bedroom windows. A few screening trees on the Hendricks’ property partially blocks the view during the summer.

After Dawn Hendricks read a two-page statement to the Planning Commission, members of the Carolina solar team attempted to address each of the Hendricks’ concerns, offering detailed explanations presented to the Planning Commission at prior hearings.

Jones, Trahos, and Retschle reviewed photos and site plans showing setbacks and boundary lines with each commissioner individually.

Other complaints about the project include excessive sediment runoff, hazardous chemicals in the manufacture of the solar panels leaching into the soil, a diminution in their property value, and plans to include only one wildlife channel running North/South even though the majority of wildlife patterns tend to move East to West or vice versa.

The Planning Commission imposed one condition on the Powell’s Creek application — that Carolina Solar meets with the Hendricks to find a middle ground. Carolina Solar has reached out to the Hendricks and plans to present several proposals to them.

Carolina Solar recently submitted a revised application for the Powell’s Creek Solar farm to include one additional 105-acre parcel of land. In a telephone interview, Dudzik explained that while performing environmental inspections, restrictions were found to exist on parcels in the NE corner of the project footprint. To move forward, Carolina Solar secured an additional parcel adjacent to the current project. An additional hearing before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will be required to approve this additional parcel.

Carolina Solar’s application for Sunnybrook Farm Solar, LLC also received unanimous approval from the commission to recommend parcels 1-5 of the proposed 51-megawatt solar farm on a six-parcel site totaling 337 acres, and located on Clays Mill Road and Vaughn Lane, to the Board of Supervisors.

Opposition came from only one individual, Mark Landis, who claimed not to be an adjacent landowner but someone who passes by the property in question every day. He asked why Carolina Solar chose this particular site to which Dudzik provided a detailed explanation of what makes an ideal solar farm site.

As with the Powells Creek Farm project, Carolina Solar submitted a revised application requesting approval to add an additional 15-acre parcel to the project. Dudzik explained that during the site inspection with Dominion and PJM, they recommended a more suitable site for the dedicated substation — which necessitated obtaining the additional parcel of land. This request must come before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for approval.

George Sindeband received a unanimous green light recommendation from the Planning Commission to operate a store at 14208 Mountain Road, where he will sell items such as healing and calming lotions, toothpaste, soaps, deodorant, and body oils all made at his farm. Sindeband is proposing to operate his business out of a 14x40 prefabricated storage building. Other than Sindeband, no one spoke for or against the permit applications.

The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend to the Board of Supervisors a conditional use permit filed by Ammon Miller for the operation of a surplus store at 1161 Pierces Trail in Nathalie. Miller plans to build a 60 x 100 metal building out of which he will sell surplus items such as furniture, clothes, hardware, and toys. Other than Miller, no one spoke for or against the permit application.

A proposed ordinance to modify the Oak Heights Agricultural and Forestal District by withdrawing nine parcels comprising 1,233.84 acres received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission to recommend its adoption by the Board of Supervisors.

Property owner Vicki Barker requested the withdrawal of her property because it is part of a conditional use application submitted by Cypress Creek Renewables for the Water Strider solar farm. J. Fielding Douthat, Jr., Le Clair Ryan attorney representing Cypress Creek Renewables stated that, “The back taxes required to be paid when land is withdrawn from an Agricultural and Forestal Division will be paid by Cypress Creek Renewables.”

The next meeting of planners is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17.

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