For the second time this year, the Anson County Board of Commissioners unanimously denied a conditional use permit request from Strata Solar to locate a solar farm off Carver Street in Wadesboro.
The commissioners were ordered by Superior Court Judge Martin McGee to hold a findings of fact deliberation to reconsider the conditional use permit. The judge decreed that the commissioners had failed to comply with North Carolina general statutes involving a quasi-judicial hearing. The judge added that the decision should not be based upon general fears and speculation.
“I recommend that you deliberate and state findings of fact,” County Attorney told the commissioners during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.
Commission Chair Anna Baucom pointed out that at the time of the public hearing, in October 2013, the new statutes concerning conditional use permits had been signed into law only five days prior, and the commissioners were unfamiliar with the process.
The commissioners deferred a decision on the solar farm until their January 2014 meeting.
During a lengthy deliberation, the commissioners made several findings of fact before coming to their unanimous decision to deny Strata Solar’s request for a second time. First off, Commissioner Dr. Jim Sims stated that he felt it wasn’t a question of whether or not the solar farm would damage the value of adjacent properties, but by how much.
Commissioner Jarvis Woodburn also pointed out that one of the witnesses who testified at the public hearing had stated that he regularly took his kids to visit a solar farm, which Woodburn said would indicate that there were no health concerns.
Still, Commissioner Bobby Sikes said, “Anything that bothers you or stays on your mind is a hazard to your health.”
Baucom said that it is a health concern to the people in the community, whose properties would be very close to the proposed farm. “It is not far enough away from a residential community,” Commissioner Harold Smith said.
After some discussion, Forbes read a list of questions that the commissioners should consider when making their decision:
- Will the proposed use endanger public health and safety? The commissioners made a motion and unanimously approved that they believe the solar farm would be a danger to public health and safety.
- Does the proposed use meet required specifications? To this question, the board voted 3-2 with Smith and Sikes opposed, that the use would meet specifications.
- Will the proposed use substantially damage the value of adjacent or adjoining properties? The commissioners unanimously agreed that it would.
- Is the use in harmony of the area in which it is to be located and in general, is it in conformity with the land use plan? No, the commissioners unanimously voted.
After these findings of fact were made, the commissioners again voted to deny the request. “It’s just not a good fit for that area,” Baucom said.
After the vote, Smith asked, “If this is not accepted by a judge, can he order us to issue the permit?” Forbes replied that the judge could do that, or he could accept the board’s decision.