Archived Story

Panel works on setback ordinance

Published 5:21pm Monday, June 17, 2013

Beaufort County is pursuing an ordinance that would establish setback and buffering requirements that would apply to energy projects in the county.

A three-man committee of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners met Monday afternoon to discuss the issue. The committee — comprised of commissioners Gary Brinn, Ed Booth and Hood Richardson — instructed Bryant Buck, planning director for the Mid-East Commission, to draft the proposed ordinance.

That draft includes requiring a 75-foot setback from the right-of-way line on a road, a 50-foot setback from a property boundary line and 100-foot setback from a residence or business. The draft also will include a requirement for a vegetative buffer around an energy project, such as a solar farm, that reaches 6 feet in height within five years of the buffer being planted.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance has been tentatively scheduled for the board’s August meeting. If adopted, the proposed ordinance would not apply to existing solar farms or other energy projects.

The impetus for forming the committee surfaced earlier this year when Paul Woolard, who lives next to the solar-farm project at White Post, complained to commissioners about the project’s effects on his property.

After hearing Woolard’s complaints and discussing the matter, the board, with a unanimous vote, directed county staff to request the White Post solar-farm developers — SunEnergy 1 and Duke Energy Renewables — to find a new entrance to the project to prevent further damage to Woolard’s property.

At the meeting where Woolard aired his concerns, Commissioner Gary Brinn said he would like to have a county ordinance that would “guarantee that no property owner would every have to step out of their house and look at that.” Brinn called for a setback of at least 100 feet from the right of way.

“I’d like to have more, but I will take the 100 feet,” he said then.

Brinn made a motion to that effect, but he withdrew that motion after other commissioners raised questions about whether Brinn’s suggestion could be considered spot zoning, which is not allowed in North Carolina. The board asked staff members to research the issue and report back to it with their findings.

Since that meeting, the committee was appointed to study the matter and report back to the full board with its findings and recommendations.

“All we want is an ordinance that’s going to say you’re going to do this, this and this,” Richardson said Monday.

“I think what you’re doing sounds logical,” attorney David Francisco told the committee.

“We’ll have to wait and see if the Duke people are going to have a strong opposition to this, but I sort of doubt that they will. … They are accustomed to dealing with these (requirements) if they’ve built these projects all over the country. They are so many places that have much more stringent requirements than what you’re proposing,” said County Manager Randell Woodruff.

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