Supervisors Delay of Renewable Energy Comprehensive Plan Update Raises Questions Following Unanimous Support for Solar Facilities Ordinance in November
At the April 10th Board meeting, the Supervisors failed by a 3-4 vote to approve a Comprehensive Plan Update covering Renewable Energy. It was later tabled by a 7-0 vote to the second meeting in May. At the public comment period, more than a dozen citizens expressed their concerns about an upcoming Solar Facility proposal in western Spotsylvania. It is worth noting almost all the residents reside in the Fawn Lake Association next to the proposed facility.
On first glance one might think delaying this Comprehensive Plan Update (which included only three sentences that generally conveyed Spotsy County supports renewable energy, but wants its impacts to be mitigated) was a positive Board response to citizens’ concerns. However, the Comprehensive Plan serves as only a guiding document, not a binding set of rules and regulations. It is not intended to be a strict framework as some citizens to seemed to have suggested. Board members should have understood this difference.
If we flash back to November 9, 2017, the Board of Supervisors approved an expansion to Solar Facilities use by a 7-0 vote with zero discussion. If you included the Staff presentation, this expansion, which allows Solar Facilities in Agricultural Zoned 2 and 3, and Rural zoned parcels with only a Special Use Permit requirement lasted less than 7 minutes. Under the previous County Ordinance 23-173, an applicant would have needed to apply for a re-zoning to Industrial 2 and then file a Special Use Permit, creating an additional layer of review.
At least 4 of the Supervisors on April 10th, must have forgotten they approved such an expansion. When faced with a dozen of residents who have been speaking to the Board for weeks, some suddenly wanted to slow down the process and think this through. But none mentioned that perhaps they did not conduct their due diligence when the proposed Ordinance change was approved in November.
Supervisors are paid over $24,000 annually to represent their constituents. I offer at either on November 9, 2017 or April 10, 2018 or perhaps both days, some Supervisors failed those they represent.
On April 10th, one resident observed that the number of residents that have shown up to speak against an upcoming project demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in the Supervisors. It’s unknown whether this resident knew that only a few months ago the Supervisors made it easier, not harder, to develop a Solar Facility, perhaps giving credibility that faith in the Board to look closely at each item in front of them may be misplaced.
It should be stated that Supervisors Benton, Marshall, and Yakabouski supported the motion to approve the Comprehensive Plan update, prior to voting in favor of tabling the issue until May. No individual is infallible, we all make mistakes, but when we do if we wish to continue to have credibility one needs to publicly admit it and explain what facts changed their minds.
Click here to review the County Ordinance update material from November 9, 2017.
Click here to review the Comprehensive Plan Update material from the April 10, 2018.
Click here to read Scott Shenk's Free Lance-Star article for additional information.