Energy Right Letter to Amelia Bulletin Monitor:
READER URGES SOLAR RULES PROTECTING PROPERTY RIGHTS
Last month, Amelia’s Planning Commission took action limiting the property rights of residents and the economic growth potential of the county. The county rules governing solar projects moved forward with some troublesome restrictions on Amelia landowners’ rights to use their property how they see fit. Although supervisors unanimously approved a utility scale solar facility in July that will bring in over a half million dollars in county revenue every year, or some $17,000,000 over the project’s life, planners now seem to be shutting down solar energy in Amelia County. Elements of the proposed solar rules place a “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS” sign on Amelia whether or not that was the intent.
With great respect for the many volunteers who serve on the planning commission, the proposed ordinance does many things well. It strengthens the requirements for vegetative buffers, it doubles the number of community meetings required for a project, and ensures project construction will be environmentally safe. Despite how good some provisions may be, if the property line setback requirements 10 times the statewide standard are allowed to remain, landowners will not be allowed to pursue solar development in the first place. The proposed rules require 1000 ft setbacks from property lines for solar projects and some 5,000 ft. setbacks for battery storage projects with some vague language included for possible exceptions.
Very few parcels in Amelia County have usable land 1,000 ft interior to all property lines, nevermind 5,000 ft., or nearly a mile from property lines. Leaders have said that they would love to see smaller landowning residents pursue a few acres of solar to provide income to supplement a farming or timber operation. The unintended consequences of the proposed solar rules hurt smaller landowners and all but assure that solar will be developed on the land of those who own hundreds or thousands of acres.
Last Tuesday, I asked “how far onto someone’s property does this planning commission and this board of supervisors want to reach to tell landowners what they can and can’t do? I don’t think 1,000 ft. is the answer.” A better solution is a more conservative approach. A simple change to 150 ft. setbacks with the option to increase setbacks during the permitting process protects the county and gives elected leaders tools to shape projects without shutting down landowner rights.
Skyler Zunk, Moseley CEO of Energy Right