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The Mechanicsville Local Letters to the Editor: Week of Dec. 16, 2020

The Mechanicsville Local Letters to the Editor: Week of Dec. 16, 2020

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Residents urged to check into solar farm plans

In the Nov. 25 issue of The Local there was a letter concerning the possible building of a 44-acre solar farm in Montpelier area. Most people reading this letter will most likely shrug it off as no big deal, but they couldn’t be more wrong.

People should take the time and read through the Virginia Clean Economy Act and see what may be in store for us. To meet the requirements of this act, Dominion has confirmed that new solar fields required by the VCEA may well blanket 313,600 acres of Virginia farm and forest land. That’s 490 square miles of solar panels that will cover ground that may have been used to plant crops or at a minimum be open fields and pastures for wildlife or domestic animals.

After reading the VCEA, take a look at Dominion’s Integrated Resource plan. Its forecast calls for three times as much solar as wind. You can look forward to higher electric bills to pay for this. The State Corporation Commission forecasts an additional $800/year from earlier increase estimates for a residential customer to purchase 1,000 kWh per month by 2030. This is an increase of just under 60%. I believe I’ve read that the average residential customer uses around 1,050 kWh per month.

Plans have been announced for more than 17 gigawatts of solar energy generated by non-utility developers. The Department of Environmental Quality permit reviews for solar projects between 5 and 150 megawatts has grown from 1 in 2015 to 70 notices of intent in 2020. If all 70 projects go through, it will represent 100,000 acres being covered with solar panels. Will these non-utility developers be around to clean up after the panels reach the end of their useful life, which is around 25 years? Or, will they just declare bankruptcy and walk away after pocketing millions and let taxpayers do the clean up?

There are some other issues to be concerned about pertaining to non-utility solar panel farms. I’ve read that Virginia has granted incentives to these developers by giving them a reduction in local property taxes. Who will pick up the possible short fall in tax revenue?

Another issue is storage capacity for the power coming from commercial and non-utility solar farms. It takes huge lithium-ion storage batteries. Dominion has recently built some test sites for these storage batteries. Two 6-megawatt and two 2-megawatt storage facilities built for $33 million for testing.

These storage batteries must be kept cool when there is high ambient temperatures (summer?) and during times of rapid discharge (summer night A/C use?).

Also, the flammability of lithium-ion electrolytes should be a concern as well.

Take time to read Virginia’s Green New Deal that was passed earlier this year. One of its many mandates is that by 2028 80% of retail power must be from clean energy resources and by 2036 it will go up to 100%. There will be penalties to suppliers not reaching this goal. The penalty will be twice the cost of the investment to reach the goal. The Green New Deal claims to be “a positive transformation treating the existential climate crisis”.

I’m all for clean energy. Solar and wind have their place but, not as our primary energy source. Clean, dependable, natural gas and nuclear energy should be the way to go.

Chuck Williamson

Mechanicsville

Headline on protocols offends reader

Regarding headline on Dr. Michael Gill’s letter to parents and community, not only did I find the headline offensive but my 9-year-old grandchildren did as well.

When we opened the paper to read together (by the way, the Hanover insert was a great history lesson and they read every article), the first statement from kiddo #1 was “What else do they want us to do?” “We are wearing our masks, our teachers and staff are wearing masks, we are using sanitizer, washing our hands.” Kiddo #2 just moaned “No -- don’t take school away!”

Even after Thanksgiving holidays and get-togethers, our school is running smoothly. I would suggest staggering pick-up times to cut that wait down, but teachers and support staff are guiding the process, kids are in school, adjusting to the restrictions and doing well.

I commend the staff at Laurel Meadow Elementary School and hope that all Hanover schools are running and operating as well with such caring and motivated staff. We do not need more fear, threats and intimidation put on our kids and parents.

We are following safety guidelines, and can assume winter colds, strep, flu and other viruses will land on us but we will treat them as they come up and know that we are doing what we need to do to keep our kids safe and healthy.

Do not threaten to follow Richmond and shut us down.

My daughter is a virtual teacher in another district and has nothing but negative reports about the virtual learning system. Kids in those districts are being deprived of a well-rounded education, but, in Hanover, parents have been able to choose what is right for their kids and those that need to or choose to home school or virtual teach, have the liberty to do so. But the kids I see daily playing on the playground, enjoying classroom, social, mealtimes and play time together are happy and well and I would not want to be involved in taking that away again.

Please in the future, give us a positive headline, like So Far, So Good, Keep up the Good Work.

Patsy Lassiter

Mechanicsville

The evil one runs rampant in some states

I hope the people who voted for Joe Biden are happy. Now you have a socialist like Bernie Sanders helping you out. Things will not stay as good as we had them with President Trump. He stood up for America and the people in it.

In 1938, Kate Smith sang a song called “God Bless America”. I’m sure a lot of older people have heard it. The song needs to be on the radio again by Kate Smith for the young to hear. She loved America.

I feel the evil one is running rampant in some of the states. Don’t the people know killing and stealing are against God’s Ten Commandments?

Abortion is not a good thing to do. There are so many couples wanting to adopt children.

Stealing anything is against God’s law.

One day we will all answer to God for the things we have done.

I am Catholic and, as one, I believe in the Ten Commandments.

We must pray for our country and the people in it.

May God bless, protect and guide us all.

Arlene Vietmeier

Mechanicsville

360/Creighton road plan a done deal?

I attended the developer’s community information meeting outlining the proposed redevelopment of the intersection of U.S. 360 and Creighton Road of Oct. 29 at Mechanicsville Honda.

In attendance were the author of the Nov. 11 letter to the editor, “Turnpike and Creighton Road plan a done deal”, Paul Thiel, and a number of other citizens.

I did not garner the impression that the proposed project was “a done deal”; indeed there have been no formal application for rezoning, no filing of a general development plan or the filing of a site plan.

In short, the project is in the conceptual phase and Pinnacle was holding a community meeting (as is required for such projects) to inform the community of their proposal and to solicit comment and feedback.

This meeting was well attended, professionally conducted and it appeared that everyone who wished to comment or had questions was accommodated by Pinnacle Construction and Development and Park Properties Management Company. An informed and engaged community is the first step in guiding development we can all benefit from.

I attended this meeting as did at least one member of the Hanover County Planning Commission and one member of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors.

Pinnacle is proposing to build approximately 198 apartments, about 15 to 18% would be three bedroom apartments, and about 18% one bedroom apartments and the remainder would be two bedroom apartments (if my notes are accurate). This development is proposed to offer a 40,000 community room facility as part of the apartment complex.

In addition to the apartments, Pinnacle is proposing approximately 15,000 to 20,000 of specialty office space and a one- to two-story assisted living facility of about 100 units with about 20 being “memory care” units.

This community presentation is the first step in a detailed process.

The developer has many steps to complete before one could deem the proposal “a done deal”. Let`s give the developer`s proposed improvements a fair and objective review and consideration. It`s not over yet, the Fat Lady has not sung, she`s just warming up (apologies to Dick Motta).

Mr. Thiel`s letter to the editor cites concerns with traffic on U.S. 360 and on Walnut Grove Road (not directly affected by the proposed development). He voices frustration that road improvements have not been forthcoming in the past. He has a valid point in his frustration with the traffic congestion. I`ve seen 50-plus years of change come to this area east of Mechanicsville and can attest to what it was like then.

Where I diverge with Mr. Thiel is where he apparently feels that transportation improvements should have been made long before now. While his point is a valid one, the practically of such an undertaking is not completely feasible.

Some of the transportation improvements are borne by developers seeking to rezone a parcel to a more intense use than originally called for by the existing zoning for that parcel.

If an application for rezoning to a higher density use is allowed, the county would expect that the developer proffer certain amenities, such as road improvements or a cash contribution that would be allocated toward other improvements. These proffers are roughly equivalent to development impact fees – the cost of increased inconveniences to the community or the costs more essential services than the original zoning would have called for.

Now, proffers, in my mind, never completely offset the impact of most developments … but that is a topic for legislators at the state level to grapple with. Local boards and town councils are not empowered to extract the “real cost” of an up-zoning on community infrastructure and essential services.

Now, as to road improvements and new road construction, simply put, roads are expensive, very expensive.

Most municipalities are not in the position to pay the entire cost of needed transportation infrastructure construction. If they were to completely fund road work, your property taxes would be higher, much higher. And other necessary services would be afforded less priority, read that, “less funding”.

Well, you might ask, I see road work being performed and new roads being built, where do the funds come from? A large majority of the funds come from the Federal government and a lesser portion from state funding sources.

Now, for the bad news: There is never enough funding for every municipality`s needs and the competition is intense. Funds are now awarded based on merit, whereas in the past these funds were allocated via a formula.

In addition to the traditional sources of road funding, there is some good news. Hanover has a new source of road funds. We shall see some begin to receive funding for some of our transportation needs through the Central Virginia Transportation Authority.

Now, for the really “good” news: You’re contributing to this funding. This newly created body is authorized to impose an additional regional 0.7% sales and use tax (revenue collection began last month) and a wholesale gas tax of 7.6 cents per gallon of gasoline and 7.7 cents per gallon of diesel fuel (revenue collection began in July of this year).

In addition to this new source of much-needed transportation funds, Hanover receives funds from the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) through CTB’s Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP).

To qualify for CTB funds, Hanover County competes with other Virginia localities for the funds. There is a list of requirements that candidate road projects must meet to qualify for state funds. This program involves comprehensive requirements that assess each road project and quantifies each project so that only the highest scoring road projects receive funds. And the moniker “Six-Year Improvement Program” should give a clue as to how long it might take from a road improvement qualifying for funding to go through from design to completion.

So, while I share your frustration with the traffic, I am reminded of something a sage told me a few years back, “With the application of cash and high explosives, nothing is impossible”. With road projects like those that are needed in our community, it’ll doubtlessly require lots of both.

Charlie Waddell

Mechanicsville

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