Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners Postpone Decision On Solar Farm In West Of County Until January

New Plans Submitted

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.

Initial Proposal

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.

Planning Commmisson

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.

OCO: BOC 12 6 2016 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Zippity said...

It seems to me that a solar farm would be a great neighbor, quiet, no traffic, no impact on school taxes, require little maintenance. We have solar power and I certainly don't worry about its impact on our health. I am much more worried about climate change and its impact on everyone's future health. With Georgia's abundant sunshine, it makes no sense not to use it for energy. Solar panels just convert sunlight to electric energy. There are no adverse health effects of that. A

Jonathan Wallace said...

Yes, I'm very curious as to what health concerns there would be for a solar farm. I'm admittedly ignorant in the area but I wouldn't expect there to be a great deal more traffic nor noise.

Anonymous said...

No traffic increase, no more kids in school, and no chicken farm odors -- what's not to like??? Everything that comes up will be opposed by someone -- the crowd that thinks "I'm here and I'm situated and it doesn't matter what anyone else wants to do. Batten down the hatches."

Xardox said...

Certainly quiet with no drain on county resources.
However, there must be some reason that Planning Commission voted unanimously against, and they showed up at 5:00 pm the day of the meeting.
Since the commissioners hardly knew anything about the subject prior to conducting the people's business, they tabled the motion.

Becky McWhorter said...

None of the electricity that is generated by this farm will be available to ANY Oconee resident. It is for the benefit of Georgia Power and two neighboring counties.It can generate power to 9,000 households for only 5 hours. In a recent study out of North Carolina for this area, with our weather and cloud cover, the average hours per day to generate electricity would be 2.5 hours per day!

The original proposal was generated from Google information.

The property taxes for the 238 acres is equal to that paid by 5 homeowners in the Belfair subdivision annually. There would be some personal property taxes the first 4 years, but due to government allowances for alternative energy, these taxes would go away within 4 years

The commission has no idea what decommissioning a solar farm entails. Most farms have a shelf life of 25-50 years. Other states/counties require a comprehensive plan for decommissioning. Our county? Not so much.Where is the plan that has the Fire Chief conducting a survey to determine if the access road can withstand the trucks needed or the training costs should a catastrophe strike? We will assume that cost, but only if and when a problem occurs.

Where are the guidelines that state a bond should be held (in our county's name), subject to a yearly review , to insure the money funded is adequate to remove and restore said property?

What is the timeline in case the property is no longer generating revenue, is hit by a catastrophe, or becomes outdated? There isn't one. Most counties/states have in place a 6 month deadline. Oconee County has no idea that most decommissioning uses money from salvage companies to defray costs. Should we wait until those contracts are made? There has been no demand for any type of plan. All they asked about was the cost, The figure thrown out was $250,000. Why not $3,000,000? After all, there was no plan presented that actually proved this was a viable number. A solar farm in North Carolina that is 1/5 of this acreage, had over $400,000 as their number.

Anonymous said...

@ Zippity et all in favor...then let them build it right outside your window--not over here. To build a power grid in Oconee for the benefit of Hall and Barrow County? No thank you. Find land in Hall and Barrow Co then--not here. There is cadmium in the system and there are expenses involved that are not addressed in the plan that could be on our community. Let Hall and Barrow put up a solar farm.

Anonymous said...

The commissioners are very much aware of the project and there are a lot of residents that are perplexed as to why they did not vote this down. 238 solid acres of solar panels and over 200,000 solar cells, standing 8ft off the ground and running between two subdivisions and ended up at a third. Along property lines, these will stand 30 yards away from their property line. A last second decision has the developer putting in an 8 foot fence and tree cover that will block these in 5 to 10 years! Over 1,000 homes within 2 miles ranging from $250K to $1 million. A government subsidized program owned by one individual who promises that when it is no longer viable, will dispose of 1000's of tons of steel, separate the toxic material in the panels and dispose of them at a toxic waste facility and then restore the land back to its natural state. Government subsidies gone, no provisions in the county codes, just a promise being made at a commissioners meeting. Decommission projection - $5 - $10 million, vote to postpone - PRICELESS!

Anonymous said...

There is 200,000 pieces of toxic waste about to be planted in Oconnee County in the middle of 5 Oconnee County neighborhoods of over 1000 homes with no benifit to County. The developer promises maybe, could, I don't know and probably could. $55 million project, no impact study, no wetland study no projection on panel replacement, no toxic waste removal - just Federal grants and guarantees to hedge funds. Maybe this should not be pushed thru

Anonymous said...

No one is talking about the fact the NONE OF THE POWER GENERATED BY THIS PROJECT GOES TO OC! Makes absolutely no sense. Vote this down now! This is a no brainer. Homes built on that site could generate just as much if not more tax revenue.

Anonymous said...

Wanted - Fact checker to attend all of my commissioner meetings. (quote - Jon Williams, commissioners meeting 12/6/16). Sat through the meeting and wouldn't advise that!! Only fact that we are aware of is that you are being paid to push this through.