sPower Survey Claims Majority of Spotsy Community Supports Solar Project
Click here to read Jeff Branscome’s Free Lance-Star article on the sPower solar power project.
The idea that sPower presented a survey that suggests the majority of Spotsylvania residents support the proposed solar project is questionable for several reasons. First, the survey’s full methodology is unknown and could not be easily located for review. Second, sPower commissioned it and rather than publicize this survey, which may have at least given the appearance of transparency, sPower elected to contact the Free Lance-Star. One can only hope the Free Lance-Star was able to review this survey and found it credible before it highlighted its findings which give the casual reader the impression that the community supports the solar project.
The harsh reality is most Spotsylvanians likely don’t care about the outcome of the solar project. They probably have more pressing concerns. While there has been a large number of community members that have come out to speak against the project and a handful in favor, this equates to how much of the population? Less than 1 percent? Is that representative of the entire community?
Conversely, sPower may suggest that most of the community supports the project, but those in favor are unable to speak or may feel intimidated by the vocal opposition to express their public support. This would be an easy statement to make because it could never be proven false but also never be proven true. If you listen to the speakers in opposition to the project what appears to be true is the overwhelming majority reside in a small sector of the area directly affected by the solar project. The handful in support is mostly those likely to financially benefit if the project is approved.
What stands in between these two opinions is the Planning Department, Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors. While one could assume some political considerations being made by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, the community should trust their Planning Department staff. The Planning Department has done a tremendous job reviewing and presenting this application. As a Spotsy resident that has watched the Planning Department since 2015, the community should trust them to make sound judgments on the impacts of projects and to present objective and fair recommendations. In the past, they have recommended denials. In the past, they have stood their ground that aspects of projects would be detrimental to the community. I would not consider them a rubber stamp and neither should members of the community. Their recommended approval with conditions should mean something to residents.
Ultimately, sPower was going to be successful at presenting a project that was generally in conformance with the County’s Comprehensive Plan because the plan is a flexible guide and not a strict set of rules and regulations. The real question more relevant now than in the past few months is what is the vision of the seven Board of Supervisors for the future of the County? That is a question I have been contemplating for several years now, and throughout all the rezoning and special use application approvals, I still don’t have a good answer.