Currituck County
NC

Planning Board Agenda

Public Hearing and Action: PB 15-25 Grandy Solar Farm:

Information

Department:Planning BoardSponsors:
Category:PB Staff Report

Body

Mr. Craddock moved to approve PB 15-25 as presented as it will not negatively affect property values and it is in the public interest with the following conditions:

1.              Uncle Graham Road shall not be used for construction and heavy equipment traffic, but will be used as the primary access to the site once construction is complete. Caratoke Highway is to be used for the construction and heavy equipment traffic.

2.              They system shall be anchored to sustain 120MPH winds as called for in the building code.

Mr. Cartwright seconded the motion and motion carried unanimously.

 

 

Meeting History

Mar 8, 2016 7:00 PM Video Planning Board Regular Meeting
draft Draft

Mike Fox, Tuggle Duggins, Nathan Rogers, Ecoplexus, Tommy Cleveland, Rich Kirkland, Kirkland Appraisals, LLC, Kim Hamby, Eastern Carolina Engineering, Inc., Steve Fentress (247 Grandy Road), John McColley (236 Grandy Road), Leon Proffitt (215 Grandy Road), Fidel Escobar (214 Uncle Graham Road), Jim Wierzbicki (114 Larry Avenue), and Jim Bodino (135 Charleston Drive), Ben Woody and Tammy Glave appeared before the board.

Ms. Glave presented the staff reports for PB 16-04 and PB 15-25 together, but the planning board will vote on each one separately.

Mr. Cooper asked if the 300 foot setback is what is required and the 100 foot setback if there are no homes. Water monitoring is required annually and for the decommission plan, the owner has 12 months to complete decommission of the facility if no electricity is generated for a continuous 12 month period.

Mr. Fox said he is an attorney for the applicant and has a presentation for the board. Mr. Fox introduced his witnesses.

Mr. Rogers talked about the project, site plan and setbacks. The construction entrance will be off Caratoke Highway using the two acres zoned general business road frontage. Uncle Graham Road shall not be used for construction and heavy equipment traffic, but will be used as the primary access to the site once construction is complete. The system shall be anchored to sustain 120MPH winds as called for in the building code.

Ms. Hamby talked about the drainage plan and a drainage analysis which will be reviewed later by the Technical Review Committee at site plan submittal. Fire access will be addressed at site plan submittal also.

Mr. Cleveland said he is an independent expert and talked about the technology at the site and safety of the panels.

Mr. Kirkland said he is a state certified appraiser and discussed whether the solar farm would affect property values.

Mr. Rogers said there are trees encircling almost the entire property with the exception of the road frontage of Caratoke Highway and several parcels on the western side of the property. They will do a shading impact analysis and keep as many of these trees as they can. North Carolina has positioned itself as one of the leaders in the solar industry.

Ms. Bell said in the presentation it was mentioned that the facility would produce clean, renewable energy for an average of 1,900 local homes. Where does the electricity goes before it comes to the homes?

Mr. Rogers said Dominion Power electrical grid.

Mr. Cooper opened the public hearing.

Mr. Fentress provided a handout to the board. Mr. Fentress said a staging area is a place to store materials. Mr. Fentress pointed out in an article by Colin Campbell and Benjamin Brown in the State Politics dated January 15, 2016, Mr. Wood Farless, a Bertie County farmer said "if a hurricane comes in and wipes out one of the solar farms, it's categorized as a hazardous waste." Mr. Fentress talked about drainage, amount of fill that will be required to fill ponds, hazardous waste material in solar panels, aluminum frame resulting in galvanized corrosion over a period of time, staging area and access through Uncle Graham Road, number of trips to fill ponds, logging trucks, solar farm vs. Power plant, test wells around site, and zinc poisoning to water. Mr. Fentress says the solar farm will cause public health and safety concerns. Mr. Fentress said the county's 2006 Land Use Plan (LUP) classifies Grandy as a community. The LUP also identifies Grandy as a full service area. This request is not in harmony with the area in which it is located. Mr. Fentress said Grandy is a growth area and the solar farm will stunt the growth.

Mr. McColley said he is concerned that this request will devalue real estate values.

Mr. Proffitt said this project is suppose to be environmentally friendly, but many large trees will be cut down to accommodate the solar farm. Not all properties surrounding the golf course have natural buffers and should have buffering to protect them from the solar farm. Mr. Proffitt said just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. This request is not in harmony with the surrounding area.

Mr. Escobar is concerned with flooding and drainage issues this request may create.

Mr. Wierzbicki is concerned that this request will decrease property values and his property will be adversely impacted by the solar farm. Mr. Wierzbicki said no one in public office should forget that they are voters. Mr. Wierzbicki said when is enough a enough.

Mr. Bodino said the residents have the most at stake. The other two solar farms are not near residential areas and there is a remote chance that a solar panel/s could catch fire.

Mr. Fox reminded the board that their decision is based on competent evidence presented tonight. Mr. Fox said change is always difficult, but he feels this is appropriate use of the property.

Mr. Rogers said they do not want any homes to flood, but hopefully after the drainage study it will make drainage better in the area. Mr. Rogers said they are going to use the road frontage for heavy vehicle deliveries and not Uncle Graham Road.

Mr. Cleveland said they will not be using a toxic heavy metal for the post and it is not to be viewed as a safety issue.

Mr. Fox said the drainage is regulated by federal law, which is then delegated to enforce by DENR of North Carolina. This will all be done at the site plan stage which will be reviewed by the county.

Mr. Cooper closed the public hearing.

Mr. Cartwright asked if the hills on the golf course are a direct result of the ponds dug on the course. Could the material from the hills be used to fill in the ponds?

Ms. Hamby said yes and they will likely use some of the material.

Mr. Cartwright asked if the board should be looking at the drainage plan as part of the request before them tonight.

Ms. Glave said no that will be when the site plan is submitted.

Mr. Cooper asked staff if this would go by the county's new stormwater manual regulations.

Ms. Glave said yes.

Mr. Cooper asked if NCDOT reviewed this project.

Ms. Glave said they had no comments.

Mr. Cooper asked if the heritage trees ordinance would apply.

Ms. Glave said yes.

Mr. Cooper asked if the panels are 150MPH and framework is 110MPH.

Mr. Cleveland said yes, but said the assembly of the panels and rack are related to the local wind speed of 120MPH.

Mr. Cooper asked if this request was reviewed by the Chief Building Inspector and did he have any comments regarding onsite requirements.

Ms. Glave said yes and additional comments would be offered during the site plan review.

Mr. Cooper asked what is the height of the required buffer vs. the height of the proposed equipment.

Ms. Glave said 6 ft. for the buffer and 15 ft. for the equipment.

Mr. Craddock asked if the solar panels are stationary.

Mr. Rogers said yes. Mr. Rogers also stated they will try to keep as many of the exterior and interior trees as possible. Once the solar farm is completed, Uncle Graham Road will be used as the permanent access.

Mr. Cooper asked what is the proposed construction time.

Mr. Rogers said if the project is approved to start in June or July and be completed by the end of the year.

Mr. Craddock asked if the applicant has considered using the ponds for dry hydrants for fire suppression.

Mr. Rogers said they don't have onsite fire suppression.

Mr. Craddock asked Mr. Kirkland if he used any local data from local counties.

Mr. Kirkland said yes. The report will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Cooper asked if there are inspections or maintenance that addresses the structural aspects of the components.

Mr. Rogers said there are routine visual inspections of the facility.

Mr. Fox said if there was an issue brought to the attention of the Utility Commission, then they do have the ability to make inspections.

Mr. Craddock asked who is the responsible party to have insurance to cover in the event of a hurricane.

Mr. Rogers said the owner of the facility and they carry one million for general liability.

Mr. Cooper thanked the public for their feedback and the board is working through answering those questions and concerns.

Mr. Craddock moved to approve PB 15-25 as presented as it will not negatively affect property values and it is in the public interest with the following conditions:

1. Uncle Graham Road shall not be used for construction and heavy equipment traffic, but will be used as the primary access to the site once construction is complete. Caratoke Highway is to be used for the construction and heavy equipment traffic.

2. They system shall be anchored to sustain 120MPH winds as called for in the building code.

Mr. Cartwright seconded the motion and motion carried unanimously.

RESULT:RECOMMENDED APPROVAL [UNANIMOUS]
MOVER:Steven Craddock, Board Member
SECONDER:Clay Cartwright, Board Member
AYES:John Cooper, Carol Bell, Robert (Bobby) Bell, Clay Cartwright, Steven Craddock, Jane Overstreet
ABSENT:William S. Midgett, Mike Cason, Fred Whiteman
Apr 4, 2016 5:00 PM Video Board of Commissioners Regular Meeting
draft Draft

Chairman Griggs reconvened the meeting after the brief recess.

Parties were sworn in and County Attorney, Ike McRee, explained the quasi-judicial nature of the proceeding and the findings the Board is required to make. Chairman Griggs opened the Public Hearing and asked the Board to disclose any ex parte communication. Commissioners Beaumont, Hall, Gilbert and Payment made their disclosures and assured their ability to make impartial decisions would not be impeded. Mr. Woody began his review of the application, summarizing that the Technical Review Committee did recommend approval, as did the Planning Board subject to conditions.

APPLICATION SUMMARY

Property Owner:

Currituck Sunshine Farms

5504 N Prospect Rd

Peoria Heights IL 61616

Applicant:

Ecoplexus Inc.

650 Townsend St #310

San Francisco CA 94103

Case Number: PB 15-25

Application Type: Use Permit

Parcel Identification Number: 0108000095E0000

Existing Use: Closed Golf Course

Land Use Plan Classification: Full Service

Parcel Size (Acres): 101.53

Request: Solar Array

Note: In 2007 the property owner petitioned the BOC to rezone 67.07 acres from A to R and 11.41 acres from A to GB to reduce the golf course to an “Executive-style” with 9 holes plus housing and to expand the GB consistent with the GB to the north and allow compatible business uses. The BOC denied the 67.07 acre rezoning and approved the 11.41 acre rezoning.

Zoning: AG

SURROUNDING PARCELS

Land Use

Zoning

North

Single Family Dwellings & Retail

AG and GB

South

Single Family Dwellings & Retail

AG and GB

East

Single Family Dwellings & Retail

GB

West

Single Family Dwellings

AG

STAFF ANALYSIS

· Ecoplexus, Inc. seeks a use permit for a 20 megawatt solar array on the abandoned Goose Creek Golf Course in Grandy. If approved, the applicant states that the facility would produce clean, renewable energy for an average of 1,900 local homes, in addition to providing short-term economic stimulus and job creation along with long-term tax revenue while requiring no provisions of additional services or infrastructure.

· The solar PV Facility will consist of direct current (DC) photovoltaic solar modules (panels) arranged in rows that are affixed to a metal racking structure and attached to the ground with either driven posts or helical ground screws. The whole concept of efficient solar power is to absorb as much light as possible while reflecting as little light as possible, so solar panels are designed to produce less glare and reflectance than standard window glass.

· Based on the limited amount of impervious coverage intended for this site, it will be exempted from the Stormwater Manual. It is anticipated that the amount of coverage created for this site will be below 10 percent of the site. Stormwater runoff will be handled by the existing ditch system on the site. Where necessary for placement of equipment or for access, existing ditches will be filled or rerouted and new grass lined drainage swells will be created as approved by Soil and Water.

· The following use standards shall apply (UDO Section 4.2.3.H).

o Solar arrays shall be configured to avoid glare and heat transference to adjacent lands.

o Appropriate ground cover/grass is required and shall be maintained as not to create a fire hazard.

o The solar panels, equipment, and associated security fencing shall be screened from rights-of-way and developed land by a Type C buffer.

o The total height of the solar energy system, including any mounts, shall not exceed 15 feet above the ground when orientated at maximum tilt.

o The solar energy system owner shall have 12 months to complete decommissioning of the facility if no electricity is generated for a continuous 12 month period.

o Operations, maintenance, and decommissioning plans are required.

o All components of the solar array (including security fencing) shall be setback at least 300 feet from all exterior property lines.

o Ground water monitoring wells shall be installed prior to construction of the solar energy system and testing data shall be submitted annually to the Planning and Community Development Department until decommissioning occurs. Monitoring wells shall be located near the center of the site and along each exterior property line at approximately the lowest ground elevation point of each property line. Testing data shall be provided to the county indicating compliance with EPA National Primary Drinking Water Standards prior to construction and annually until decommissioning occurs.

§ Should the initial ground water testing indicate that the site is not in compliance with the EPA National Primary Drinking Water Standards, subsequent annual reports shall indicate no increase in noncompliance with those standards.

o Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the developer shall post a performance guarantee in the form of cash deposit with the county to ensure decommissioning funds are available in an amount equal to 115 percent of the estimated decommissioning costs minus salvageable value. Estimates for decommissioning the site and salvageable value shall be prepared and certified by a registered engineer or North Carolina licensed general contractor.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Stormwater/Drainage

The ponds on the property are to be filled in. They are nonjurisdictional wetlands. An Erosion and Sedimentation Control permit will be required from NCDEQ if more than one acre is disturbed. There will be no increase in stormwater runoff from the property, according to the applicant.

Lighting

The applicant proposes no exterior lighting to be included as part of the facility.

Landscaping

The solar panels, equipment, and associated security fence shall be screened from rights-of-way and developed land by a Type C buffer.

Water/Wastewater

The project will not use water or wastewater.

Transportation/Access

The property has road frontage/access on Uncle Graham Road (SR 1128).

Recommendations

The Technical Review Committee recommends adoption of the use permit subject to the following conditions of approval:

1. The application complies with all applicable review standards of the UDO provided the following outstanding items are addressed:

a. Appropriate ground cover/grass is required. (UDO Section 4.2.3.H) Please note the proposed groundcover.

b. Operations, maintenance, and decommissioning plans are required prior to issuance of a building permit.

c. Post a performance guarantee to ensure proper decommissioning prior to the issuance of a building permit.

d. Street address must be posted on the property.

e. Ground water monitoring wells shall be installed and initial testing data provided prior to the issuance of the building permit and then annually thereafter to show compliance with EPA Nation Primary Drinking Water standards. Please show well locations on the plan.

Planning Board

The Planning Board recommends adoption of the use permit subject to the same conditions outlined in the TRC comments and the following:

1. Uncle Graham Road shall not be used for construction and heavy equipement traffic, but may be used as the primary access to the site once construction is complete. Caratoke Highway is to be used for the construction and heavy equipment traffic.

2. They system shall be anchored to sustain 120MPH winds as called for in the building code.

USE PERMIT REVIEW STANDARDS

A use permit shall be approved on a finding that the applicant demonstrates the proposed use will meet the below requirements. It is staff’s opinion that the evidence in the record, prepared in absence of testimony presented at a public hearing, supports the preliminary findings.

The use will not endanger the public health or safety.

Preliminary Applicant Findings:

1. The solar photovoltaic technology is an extremely safe for of electrical generation and has no pollutants, discharges, or emissions of toxic compounds during its use.

2. Security fencing will surround the site.

3. Code compliant wiring practices and materials will be used.

4. Bonding of all metals to prevent fire in the case of a ground fault.

5. The panels are rated to 150 MPH wind speeds.

6. The racking system will be engineered to withstand a minimum of 120 MPH three second wind gust.

The use will not injure the value of adjoining or abutting lands and will be in harmony with the area in which it is located.

Preliminary Applicant Findings:

1. The solar facility is a very benign, innocuous land use. The facility will produce no odors, air emissions, or hazardous material. Additionally, it will not produce any noises that are discernible beyond the interior of the facility. Additionally, after construction of the facility is complete, vehicular trips to/from the site will consist of a single pickup truck several times a year for routine maintenance.

2. The solar facilities are generally considered to be less noxious uses that even traditional agriculture, given that farming can create nuisance in the form of dirt kicked up by tractors, odors from fertilizer application, and migration of pesticides and herbicides from the soil into the groundwater.

3. Ecoplexus has commissioned a licensed real estate appraiser that performed a number of “matched pair analyses” for its solar developments in North Carolina. None of the analyses produced any evidence of deleterious impacts on property values due to the presence of the solar facility.

4. The proposed use will be in harmony with the surrounding area, noting that the proposed facility can actually enhance it. For example, while traditional agriculture produces dust and runoff, the proposed solar farm will produce neither. Nor is there any traffic created after the construction period has finished.

5. The proposed facility represents a consistent, predictable land use that will be in harmony with the surrounding area by not contributing to urbanization of the landscape.

The use will be in conformity with the Land Use Plan or other officially adopted plans.

Preliminary Staff Findings:

1. The Land Use Plan classifies this site as Full Service within the Grandy subarea. Areas designated as Full Service are those parts of the county where a broad range of infrastructure and service invesetments have been provided or will be made available by the public and/or private sectors. The proposed use is in keeping with the policies of the plan, some of which are:

a. POLICY ED1: New and expanding industries and businesses should be especially encouraged that: 1) diversity the local economy, 2) train and utilize a more highly skilled labor force, and 3) are compatible with the environmental quality and natural amenity-based economy of Currituck County.

b. POLICY ID1 Provide industrial development opportunities for cluster industries identified by Currituck Economic Development such as defense aero-aviation, port and maritime related industries, alternative energy, agriculture and food, and local existing business support.

The use will not exceed the county’s ability to provide adequate public facilities, including, but not limited to: schools, fire and rescue, law enforcement, and other county facilities. Applicable state standards and guidelines shall be followed for determining when public facilities are adequate.

Preliminary Staff Findings:

a. The use will not create any burden on public facilities and will have no impact on schools.

Planning Board Discussion (3/8/16)

Mr. Cooper asked if the 300 foot setback is what is required and the 100 foot setback if there are no homes. Water monitoring is required annually and for the decommission plan, the owner has 12 months to complete decommission of the facility if no electricity is generated for a continuous 12 month period.

Mr. Fox said he is an attorney for the applicant and has a presentation for the board. Mr. Fox introduced his witnesses.

Mr. Rogers talked about the project, site plan and setbacks. The construction entrance will be off Caratoke Highway using the two acres zoned general business road frontage. Uncle Graham Road shall not be used for construction and heavy equipment traffic, but will be used as the primary access to the site once construction is complete. The system shall be anchored to sustain 120MPH winds as called for in the building code.

Ms. Hamby talked about the drainage plan and a drainage analysis which will be reviewed later by the Technical Review Committee at site plan submittal. Fire access will be addressed at site plan submittal also.

Mr. Cleveland said he is an independent expert and talked about the technology at the site and safety of the panels.

Mr. Kirkland said he is a state certified appraiser and discussed whether the solar farm would affect property values.

Mr. Rogers said there are trees encircling almost the entire property with the exception of the road frontage of Caratoke Highway and several parcels on the western side of the property. They will do a shading impact analysis and keep as many of these trees as they can. North Carolina has positioned itself as one of the leaders in the solar industry.

Ms. Bell said in the presentation it was mentioned that the facility would produce clean, renewable energy for an average of 1,900 local homes. Where does the electricity goes before it comes to the homes?

Mr. Rogers said Dominion Power electrical grid.

Mr. Cooper opened the public hearing.

Mr. Fentress provided a handout to the board. Mr. Fentress said a staging area is a place to store materials. Mr. Fentress pointed out in an article by Colin Campbell and Benjamin Brown in the State Politics dated January 15, 2016, Mr. Wood Farless, a Bertie County farmer said "if a hurricane comes in and wipes out one of the solar farms, it's categorized as a hazardous waste." Mr. Fentress talked about drainage, amount of fill that will be required to fill ponds, hazardous waste material in solar panels, aluminum frame resulting in galvanized corrosion over a period of time, staging area and access through Uncle Graham Road, number of trips to fill ponds, logging trucks, solar farm vs. Power plant, test wells around site, and zinc poisoning to water. Mr. Fentress says the solar farm will cause public health and safety concerns. Mr. Fentress said the county's 2006 Land Use Plan (LUP) classifies Grandy as a community. The LUP also identifies Grandy as a full service area. This request is not in harmony with the area in which it is located. Mr. Fentress said Grandy is a growth area and the solar farm will stunt the growth.

Mr. McColley said he is concerned that this request will devalue real estate values.

Mr. Proffitt said this project is supposed to be environmentally friendly, but many large trees will be cut down to accommodate the solar farm. Not all properties surrounding the golf course have natural buffers and should have buffering to protect them from the solar farm. Mr. Proffitt said just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. This request is not in harmony with the surrounding area.

Mr. Escobar is concerned with flooding and drainage issues this request may create.

Mr. Wierzbicki is concerned that this request will decrease property values and his property will be adversely impacted by the solar farm. Mr. Wierzbicki said no one in public office should forget that they are voters. Mr. Wierzbicki said when is enough an enough.

Mr. Bodino said the residents have the most at stake. The other two solar farms are not near residential areas and there is a remote chance that a solar panel/s could catch fire.

Mr. Fox reminded the board that their decision is based on competent evidence presented tonight. Mr. Fox said change is always difficult, but he feels this is appropriate use of the property.

Mr. Rogers said they do not want any homes to flood, but hopefully after the drainage study it will make drainage better in the area. Mr. Rogers said they are going to use the road frontage for heavy vehicle deliveries and not Uncle Graham Road.

Mr. Cleveland said they will not be using a toxic heavy metal for the post and it is not to be viewed as a safety issue.

Mr. Fox said the drainage is regulated by federal law, which is then delegated to enforce by DENR of North Carolina. This will all be done at the site plan stage which will be reviewed by the county.

Mr. Cooper closed the public hearing.

Mr. Cartwright asked if the hills on the golf course are a direct result of the ponds dug on the course. Could the material from the hills be used to fill in the ponds?

Ms. Hamby said yes and they will likely use some of the material.

Mr. Cartwright asked if the board should be looking at the drainage plan as part of the request before them tonight.

Ms. Glave said no that will be when the site plan is submitted.

Mr. Cooper asked staff if this would go by the county's new stormwater manual regulations.

Ms. Glave said yes.

Mr. Cooper asked if NCDOT reviewed this project.

Ms. Glave said they had no comments.

Mr. Cooper asked if the heritage trees ordinance would apply.

Ms. Glave said yes.

Mr. Cooper asked if the panels are 150MPH and framework is 110MPH.

Mr. Cleveland said yes, but said the assembly of the panels and rack are related to the local wind speed of 120MPH.

Mr. Cooper asked if this request was reviewed by the Chief Building Inspector and did he have any comments regarding onsite requirements.

Ms. Glave said yes and additional comments would be offered during the site plan review.

Mr. Cooper asked what is the height of the required buffer vs. the height of the proposed equipment.

Ms. Glave said 6 ft. for the buffer and 15 ft. for the equipment.

Mr. Craddock asked if the solar panels are stationary.

Mr. Rogers said yes. Mr. Rogers also stated they will try to keep as many of the exterior and interior trees as possible. Once the solar farm is completed, Uncle Graham Road will be used as the permanent access.

Mr. Cooper asked what is the proposed construction time.

Mr. Rogers said if the project is approved to start in June or July and be completed by the end of the year.

Mr. Craddock asked if the applicant has considered using the ponds for dry hydrants for fire suppression.

Mr. Rogers said they don't have onsite fire suppression.

Mr. Craddock asked Mr. Kirkland if he used any local data from local counties.

Mr. Kirkland said yes. The report will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Cooper asked if there are inspections or maintenance that addresses the structural aspects of the components.

Mr. Rogers said there are routine visual inspections of the facility.

Mr. Fox said if there was an issue brought to the attention of the Utility Commission, then they do have the ability to make inspections.

Mr. Craddock asked who is the responsible party to have insurance to cover in the event of a hurricane.

Mr. Rogers said the owner of the facility and they carry one million for general liability.

Mr. Cooper thanked the public for their feedback and the board is working through answering those questions and concerns.

Mr. Craddock moved to approve PB 15-25 as presented as it will not negatively affect property values and it is in the public interest with the following conditions:

1. Uncle Graham Road shall not be used for construction and heavy equipment traffic, but will be used as the primary access to the site once construction is complete. Caratoke Highway is to be used for the construction and heavy equipment traffic.

2. They system shall be anchored to sustain 120MPH winds as called for in the building code.

Mr. Cartwright seconded the motion and motion carried unanimously.

Michael Fox of Greensboro, and attorney for the applicant, provided documents to the Board to be submitted into evidence and introduced his experts who would testify on behalf of the applicant.

Nathan Rogers, the applicant, gave the Board an overview of Ecoplexus and the project. He discussed the panels to be installed, agreeing to the crystalline silicon panels as an additional condition, the most benign, which the Board agreed to include as part of the motion for approval. He noted the reduced acreage due to the denial of the rezoning, stating there is now 36 acres to address stormwater and mitigate concerns of adjoining properties. He reviewed the site plan, stating the 300' setback should allow the keeping of trees along the perimeter making the site largely invisible.

Kim Hamby, Licensed North Carolina Engineer specializing in Drainage Resources, reviewed existing ponds, current drainage patterns and preliminary site analysis, noting that the Department of Transportation water that runs through the property had not yet been studied but would be addressed as part of the full site plan design. She believes there are sufficient resources on site to fill ponds, and erosion control was discussed. Ms. Hamby said that new drainage would have to be installed before any discharge or filling of ponds would be allowed and they would be regulated by the state in that regard. She explained how the discharge of water would occur. She said landscaping and fencing would be part of the civil plan.

Tommy Cleveland, Professional Engineer, Independent Solar Expert, provided information on the crytalline-silicon panels, stating they are non-toxic. He described other equipment that would be installed including racking, junction boxes, inverters, and transformers. Mr. Cleveland discussed safety, hurricanes and addressed Electro Magnetic Frequency readings, believing them to not be an issue so long as the transformers are set appropriately well within the site. He addressed environmental concerns and concluded with his opinion that no health or safety concerns are present.

Commissioner Beaumont posed a question about the use of herbicides on the property, and Mr. Rogers said that herbicides may be used but he would prefer not. Mr. Cleveland described the differences between types of solar panels and addressed the reflective properties of the panels. Mr. Rogers explained that understanding concerns raised with cadmium panels, the crystalline-silicon panels were chosen for the site. He believes that even after 30 years they are still 75% viable and could be used elsewhere, perhaps in developing countries.

Rich Kirkland of Raleigh, a state certified appraiser, testified regarding property values and harmony of use, providing his analysis of other solar farms and their adjoining properties. Commissioner O'Neal noted the distances of homes from many on his analysis are much farther than what is being proposed. Mr. Kirkland's opinion is that the use is harmonious, and he presented housing value data from a similarly situated solar array in Goldsboro, NC. He answered questions regarding the matched pair analysis performed, addressing how similar the comparisons actually are.

Mr. Fox interjected, stating their requirement is to address the impact on value for this use. Mr. Kirkland said he has been to the site multiple times and answered questions relating to harmony with the surrounding property and the current market. Mr. Kirkland summarized his opinion that the use is a harmonious with no impact on adjoining property values.

Mr. Rogers thanked commissioners for the discussion, stating the use is a harmonious one, as it will not produce noise or smells and it is not an industrial facility. He restated the significant tax impact for the county.

Mr. Chuck Loller, attorney representing property owners living adjacent to the project, spoke of the uncertainties surrounding the project, noting that although the burden is with the applicant to show otherwise, they will demonstrate that the use will endanger public safety, will injure abutting lands and is not in harmony with the area nor in conformity with the land use plan. He said the state of North Carolina Division of Water Quality is just beginning to address the lack of oversight of solar farms and introduced experts that will testify.

Dr. Herb Eckerlin, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at North Carolina State University, began by providing a summary of his qualifications related to solar energy. Dr. Eckerlin said he is a proponent of solar power, named the different types of solar energy, and explained the intermittent nature of a solar farm. He noted their average production of 5 hours a day with no production on rainy days or at night, and that they rely on traditional power. He spoke about subsidies and how they are what brings solar developers to North Carolina. He said Grandy and Currituck County would get very little benefit out of solar development, and talked of solar energy's impact on power bills by comparing local energy costs at 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) with green energy areas such as California at .13 cents and Germany at .29 cents per kwh. He spoke to sustainability and the life of a solar farm, posing the question as to what happens after decommissioning. He referred to state legislation which provides for solar arrays to be treated as special projects, and said there is no state oversight or regulation. He said many panels come from China and no one really knows the composition. Dr. Eckerlin believes a moratorium should be placed on solar arrays until the state has had time to address issues.

Attorney Fox objected to portions of Dr. Eckerlin's testimony as being both irrelevant to the proceeding and hearsay. Chairman Griggs noted the objections for the record.

Dr. Eckerlin responded to questions posed by Mr. Fox pertaining to his previous testimony about the cost of energy in other states. Mr. Fox suggested the information was not based on personal knowledge and asked that the testimony be stricken. Attorney Fox suggested Mr. Eckerlin has a philosophical opposition to solar farms and is not relevant to the application. Attorney Lollar addressed the fact that the applicant's presentation was also based on hearsay, and Dr. Eckerlin's testimony rebuts the testimony given by the applicants experts related to value.

Dr. Ronnie Heiniger, Professor in Crop Soils at NC State University and Edenton resident, discussed the holding ponds on the property and their use in controlling and maintaining nutrients and removing pesticides from runoff, stating that as a central feature for development of the golf course the same feature is needed for the application of solar array due to the use of fertilizer, pesticides. He said the ponds are still necessary and removal would have an egregious impact on the surrounding environment. Dr. Heiniger pointed out that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not approve solar farms on federal land in the southeast because the environmental impact is greater than the benefit of the solar farm. Responding to questions from the applicant, Dr. Heiniger described the types of federal lands located in North Carolina and confirmed that there were solar farms on some USDA lands located in the western US. He said he was not aware of a solar project being constructed at Camp LeJeune, noting his comments referred only to land owned by the USDA, not the Department of Defense or Forest Service.

Bruce Sauter, a state Certified Appraiser from Greenville, introduced himself as a 38 year member of the appraiser institute. He began by noting the many Currituck County properties he has appraised. He discussed determination of the highest and best use of property is the most important part of the appraisal process. He recalled the appraisal he performed on the Goose Creek Golf Course prior to the foreclosure process, concluding at that time the highest and best use would be for single family residences. He reviewed Mr. Kirkland's analysis, stating he did not hear anything about an increase in value of homes and said because the jury is still out in Currituck County no empirical evidence is present. Mr. Sauter noted the potential for 150 homes on the property and with sewer there could be 300 homes. He noted there are plenty of alternative locations for solar in the county. When asked by Mr. Lollar, Mr. Sauter said the solar farm is not in harmony, defining it as a legal non-conforming use. Answering questions posed by the Board, he described harmony as blending with the neighborhood or that would enhance the public benefit, naming parks, a community club (tennis courts), or water features as examples. He referenced the Land Use Plan, and its allowing for solar arrays only in agricultural zoning. When asked by Attorney Fox, Mr. Sauter said he has not performed any professional appraisals of properties located next to solar farms.

Steve Fentress, a resident of Grandy and 32 years experience as a highway heavy marine construction contractor, asked Mr. Woody if there would be a drainage plan. Mr. Woody clarified that the site wouldn't fall under Currituck County's ordinance because it does not fall within the parameters. Mr. Fentress talked about the ponds which hold 12.5 million gallons of water and discussed drainage outlets and inlets, believing that it will take 79,000 cubic yards to fill the ponds. Mr. Fentress noted solar farms are classified as an industrial use in the UDO. He said no local contractors were used for the Shawboro solar facility and no inspections of connections by the inspections office, other than electrical were performed and asked the Board to address the lack of inspections at facilities and presented related documents to the Board for consideration.

Mr. Lollar closed by summarizing the testimony for the Board. He stated it is not the time to approve another solar power plant and the applicants have not met the burden of the required findings. He asked the board to deny the project.

Chairman Griggs called a brief recess. After reconvening, Attorney Fox raised an additional objection to a hardcopy powerpoint from the NC Department of Environmental Quality, which had been distributed earlier by the opposition, as hearsay. Chairman Griggs noted the objection.

Chairman Griggs asked Mr. Woody to address the inspections for solar property, which included electrical trenches, bondings and connections. Mr. Woody clarified an electrical permit would have been issued for the project, but not a traditional building permit.

Laura Darden, 214 Uncle Graham Road, said her property backs up to the proposed project. She referred to an envelope presented to the Board that contained pictures of flooding at her property. She noted the standing water on the golf course. Ms. Darden aid she is not opposed to solar energy but doesn't believe the location is the appropriate place. She suggested a lack of care or concern on behalf of the developer, as she had contacted the applicant who said they would meet with her but never did.

The applicant had no rebuttal evidence to present. Thanking the Board, Mr. Fox reviewed the questions for which they are required to make their findings, and contended that the evidence presented by the opposition had not been sufficiently rebuked. He recalled the expert testimony presented, specifically expressing confidence that they would be able to improve drainage at the site, and recalled the testimony of Mr. Kirkland regarding appraisals and value. Believing they had met their burden, he asked the Board for approval.

Attorney Loller asked the Board to consider the lack of conformity, reiterating the industrial use that is not compatible or harmonious with the surrounding area.

With no one else wishing to speak Chairman Griggs closed the Public Hearing.

Beaumont moved to deny PB 15-25 as the applicant has not demonstrated the proposed use meets the use permit review standards of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), that the use will endanger the public health or safety of the community in that: water drainage has not been adequately addressed to ensure the amount of water that needs to vacate the property will be able to do so safely; there is a significant disparity with the amount of material that is available on the site for backfilling the ponds in the fill plan that was described, believing that evidence indicates an additional water drainage issue will be created; testimony provided by the applicant regarding the use of chemicals on the property, specifically herbicides, that their use and/or amounts are unspecified, and without some limitation as to the quantity of chemicals necessary to maintain the facility will be excessive and a health hazard to those around; use is not in harmony with the neighborhood beside it in that, based on expert testimony by Mr. Sauder, the property is not in harmony with adjacent residential neighborhoods and provides a stark contrast to the adjacent subdivision; finally, the use will not be in conformity with the land use plan it is a large facility that is being reverted to or used in a manner that would not be conducive in a full-service district.

Commissioner Payment seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.

RESULT:APPROVED [UNANIMOUS]
MOVER:Paul M. Beaumont, Commissioner
SECONDER:Mike H. Payment, Commissioner
AYES:David L. Griggs, S. Paul O'Neal, Paul M. Beaumont, Marion Gilbert, Mike D. Hall, Mike H. Payment
ABSENT:O. Vance Aydlett