POWHATAN – The Powhatan County Board of Supervisors was recently split in its decision to deny a proposed solar farm project from moving forward off of Three Bridge Road.
During the board’s meeting on Monday, Nov. 23, the supervisors were scheduled to hold two public hearings about Powhatan Solar II LLC.
The first public hearing was an appeal of the Powhatan Planning Commission’s 3-2 decision on Oct. 6 to recommend denial of the request for a conditional use permit (CUP), citing that the proposal is not in accord with recommendations made in the 2019 Long-Range Comprehensive Plan.
After lengthy discussion on Nov. 23, the supervisors voted 3-2 to affirm the planning commission’s decision and deny the appeal. This decision made the second public hearing about Cypress Creek Renewables’ CUP request moot, and the board skipped it.
Chairman David Williams, who represents District 1, Larry Nordvig, District 2, and Bill Cox, District 4, voted to deny the appeal. Mike Byerly, District 3, and Karin Carmack, District 5, voted against denying the appeal.
The point that both the planning commission and the supervisors talked about the most was the size of the project. In particular, the planning commission cited that the proposal, when combined with the already approved Powhatan Solar I on the same parcels (adjacent to the location of this request), exceeds the maximum project size recommended for solar energy farms of 500 acres described in the comprehensive plan. In total, the subject properties consist of about 927 acres, of which approximately 160 acres would be occupied by the solar arrays if approved.
While representatives from Cypress Creek Renewables argued that Solar I and II were separate projects and should be considered separately, several of the board members did not agree with this position.
There was also a discussion about the use of the word “should” in the comprehensive plan in reference to the maximum size of a solar farm. The plan is supposed to be a guide, some board members argued, and leaves a certain amount of discretion to the supervisors.
Carmack and Byerly brought up the financial gains Powhatan would see if the solar farm moved forward but those discussion points were put on hold as that was a matter to be discussed in the CUP public hearing, not one about whether the project was in “substantial accord” with the comprehensive plan.
Three people also spoke during the public hearing about the appeal, with one adamantly opposed to it, one wishing the board to wait until they see how Powhatan Solar I turns out, and another just having a boundary question.
Other business handled during the Nov. 23 meeting included:
* Three people spoke during the public comment period asking the board to seek some kind of change on Founders Bridge Boulevard. The residents, who presented a petition with 150 signatures, said vehicles traveling at high speed in their neighborhoods present a danger to residents. They said they would be open to discussing different options, whether it is a speed limit reduction, electronic speed warning signs, pedestrian crossings, or more law enforcement presence.
* One man asked during the public comment period if the board would consider drafting a resolution showing resistance if the governor were to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory. Another public speaker asked the board to reconsider the restrictions on couples gifting land to their spouses.
* The board passed two ordinances with a 4-0-1 vote, with Byerly abstaining on both. The first vote saw the board approving a rezoning amendment to change the Courthouse Square Center (CHSC) zoning district from a Transition Base District to a Village Growth Area Base District and to add uses to the list of permitted and conditional uses within the CHSC zoning district.
The board also approved a rezoning request for two parcels, the property where Four Seasons sits and the former bank across the street. The properties were rezoned from General Commercial to Courthouse Square center.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.