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Back and forth / December 05, 2018
After last week’s column on the need to address the worsening situation with climate change, this week an exchange of letters landed in our in-box concerning the Lady Bug solar generation project in the Bracey area. It’s the latest idea for a solar farm in Mecklenburg County to raise the hackles of people living in the nearby community. In general, I strongly support the development of solar power, but that doesn’t mean every project is right for every area.

Not knowing enough about the matter to feel comfortable weighing in with an opinion here, all I’ll say for now is that there are people on both sides of the question whose views I respect. Below, Kelly and Suzanne Perry have penned an unusually lovely letter about the Lake Gaston-area landscape where the Lady Bug solar field is proposed to be built, and they received a reply from Parker Sloan with Cypress Creek Renewables, the outfit behind the project. It all strikes me as a highly respectful and productive dialogue. But let us know what you think; our Commentary page exists not only to express our own opinions, but to hear yours via our Viewpoint column.

Letters to the editor can be dropped off at The Sun, 602 Virginia Avenue, Clarksville or sent through the mail to The Sun, P.O. Box 997, Clarksville VA 23927. Better yet, email your missives to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). And thanks, as always, for reading.

By the way, in the first letter, “Mr. Hendrick” is County Zoning Administrator Robert Hendrick. On to the exchange:

Dear Mr. Sloan and Mr. Hendrick and all others concerned,

I have wrestled with powerful mixed emotions about this solar farm project.

I am a big believer in private property rights.

I know this area to be a very rare and special habitat.

I know that the landowners have limited options for the profitable use of their property.

I know that there is a highly sensitive heron rookery in the swamp/marsh just up Flat Creek and that there are all sorts of huge owls and hawks here.

I know that that intense farming would be harmful to wildlife habitat.

I know that a colony of Tree Swallows migrate here and occasionally a flock of Egrets roost like Christmas ornaments on the big Sycamore across the flats.

I know that residential development would be harmful to wildlife habitat.

I know that cormorants stand on the stumps in the flats some nights with their wings spread, shining spookily in the moonlight.

I see River Otters working the banks of Flat Creek teaching their young to fish.

I see bear, deer and turkey eating wild Persimmon and using the lowlands of the Roanoke as travel lanes through the woodlands from Buggs Island/Dick Cross Area to I-85 wetlands.

I see every type of fish and reptile bedding and living in Gaston’s fresh water estuary that is Miles Creek/The Flats/Flat Creek.

We have done some small scale development over the years, and we understand the expense of trying to protect habitat and please neighbors.

I love even the ugly critters, Long Nose Gar, Turkey Vultures, Snapping Turtles. Scary Skunks. Watchful crows. Woodchucks undermining my shed.

And hearing the Kingfishers chatter when they are mating, watching a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers knock huge hunks of bark as they search for lunch.

And the geese and ducks raising hundreds of their young every spring on the lawn. Watch your step.

Rabbits, Raccoon, Possum, Fox, Deer, and once, a Black Mink.

And our new Bat house, King Snakes, Squirrels, Skinks, Tree Frogs chirping, Toad and Pickerel Frog hopping.

Osprey, Eagle, Wood Duck, Great Blue and White Heron, Goldfinch, Bluebird, Cardinal, Blue Jay.

They have all been here, all of the time. Since my ancestors left the Roaring Roanoke in 1740, and since I moved back here in 1996.

Remember that Revolutionary hero William Baskerville’s family Manor House “Buena Vista” (translation “Good View”) still stands on the development site.

And Colonel Samuel Goode is buried beside “Invermay,” the home he moved into after the Revolution and still standing on your other site across the road.

They are watching.

The solar industry professes to exist for the environment and for habitat protection.

Please do your best.

Kelly and Suzanne Perry

Reply to Kelly Perry by Cypress Creek Renewables:

Kelly, thanks so much for your email,

The Ladybug solar farm will not involve one large continuous fence but actually each section (broken up by streams, wetlands, and roads) will be fenced in, per the National Electric Code, to prevent access for large mammals such as deer. Although sometimes deer end up hoping in and out. Smaller animals, such as squirrels and birds, are allowed to pass throughout the facility following construction without issue. The environment in the solar facility will be conducive to wildlife habitat for years because of its natural vegetation, significant amount of shade and relative lack of human disruption. Once construction is complete, the disturbed areas are seeded with a variety of native grasses, which actually turn into healthy meadow conditions.

Over time we have seen it become a haven for birds, other small animals, and actually ends up being ideal quail habitat. In short there is nothing involved with the installation of the solar farm itself that would prevent the wildlife you mentioned from entering, or living on or near the site.

In addition, I also want to mention that we are aware of sensitive natural areas like wetlands and streams (including Flat Creek) that are contained within this property. It is our intention and requirement that we build around and off of those natural areas as we too wish to leave as small of an impact as possible. A solar farm of this type is a temporary land use and truly the lowest impact land use possible.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to speak further.

Parker Sloan

Community & Economic Development Manager

Cypress Creek Renewables


Our thanks go out to the Perrys for submitting this exchange of emails for publication in The Sun. The Mecklenburg County Planning Commission voted narrowly last week that the Lady Bug proposal is not in compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan for development, but the final say-so belongs to the Board of Supervisors, which meets next Monday.

To be continued ....

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