The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night decided to delay until January a decision on a rezone request for a solar energy farm at McNutt Creek Road and Dials Mill Road in the far northwest of the county.
The Board postponed action after holding a public hearing on the request during which six citizens spoke in opposition to the project.
The developers of the solar farm submitted revised plans for the project at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and neither the county’s planning staff nor the members of the Board of Commissioners had been able to review the changes.
The Board voted after the hearing to postpone a decision until its Jan. 3 meeting, at which time another hearing will be held on the request.
The Mr. Chick Farms Limited Partnership of Gainesville and Eleanor Prather of Good Hope, in Walton County, are asking the county to grant a special use to allow for development of the solar farm on two parcels at the intersection of McNutt Creek Road and Dials Mill Road.
The larger parcel, owned by Mr. Chick Farms, is 199 acres and runs from Dials Mill Road to Barber Creek.
The parcel owned by Prather is just less than 34 acres and is at the southeast corner of the intersection of McNutt Creek Road with Dials Mill Road.
Rural Green Power LLC, Athens is to be the developer of the $50 million project, known as Dials Mill Road Solar Farm.
The total build-out of the 38 megawatt solar energy farm should be completed between June and August of 2018, according to the narrative.
The Planning Commission on Nov. 14 voted 5-0 not to recommend approval of the rezone to the Board of Commissioners.
Citizens spoke in opposition to the project that night, arguing that the proposed land use was incompatible with the nearby residential neighborhoods.
At the meeting before the Board of Commissioners last night, Jon Williams of Williams and associates, representing Rural Green Power LLC and Dials Mill Road Solar Farm, said the revised plans were in response to concerns raised at the Planning Commission meeting.
Williams said that the new plans do not put any solar panels on the 34-acre-tract owned by Prather.
Speakers At Hearing
A representative of the family that owns Chick Farms spoke at the beginning of the public hearing, saying that the solar farm was a good use of the land that had been a working farm in the past.
The six who spoke in opposition raised concerns about the impact of the development on the residential areas that surround it.
Chad Palmer, a physician at the University of Georgia, said that “there are no long term studies” of the impact of such a facility on the health of people who live around them.
“It is way too early to consider putting this this close to residential areas,” he said.
Vote To Postpone
Commissioner Jim Luke recused himself from the hearing and discussions last night because his family owns property in the area.
That left only two voting commissioners, William “Bubber” Wilkes and Mark Saxon.
Chairman Melvin Davis votes only in the case of a tie.
At the end of the hearing, Wilkes made the motion to postpone the decision, and Saxon seconded. Both then voted for the delay in the decision.
The special election to fill the open fourth spot on the Commission was held Tuesday, with Chuck Horton defeating Marcus Wiedower in a runoff.
I attended only part of last night’s meeting and then left to go the Board of Elections and Registration Office to follow the election returns.
Sarah Bell video recorded the entire Commmission meeting, and that video is below.
The hearing on the solar farm begins at 33:15 into the video and continues until near the end of the meeting at 1:45 on the video.
About 60 people attended the meeting, which had been moved from the Commission Chamber to the Courtroom to accommodated the expected large crowd.