Board wants new entrance to solar farm

Published 1:50 am Friday, May 10, 2013

Beaufort County leaders are asking the developers of the solar farm off White Post Road to relocate the entrance to the project.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, with a unanimous vote, directed county staff to request the developers — SunEnergy 1 and Duke Energy Renewables — to find a new entrance to the project to prevent further damage to adjacent property owner Paul Woolard’s property.

Woolard explained his dissatisfaction with the solar-farm project during the board’s meeting.

Commissioner Gary Brinn, who’s known Woolard for 30 years, discussed his views on Woolard’s situation.

“I went down and looked at, and I know that I would hate to walk out every morning and have to look at that. I have been down there in the afternoon to see the glare he’s been talking about, but he’s a truthful man, and I’m sure there’s a glare there. … We can’t help Paul right now, but there’s other people in Beaufort County who are going to be affected by the very same thing,” Brinn said. “I think as county commissioners we were voted in to serve and protect the citizens of Beaufort County. These are the things right here — are the one we need to protect. We can’t help Paul, but we can help other people that they don’t have to go through the same thing that Paul is going through.”

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.

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.

Commissioner Hood Richardson said he could not understand why the project developers chose to locate the entrance to the project across from Woolard’s property. Richardson said the developers had about 1,000 feet of road frontage from which to select a place for the entrance.

“They went directly opposite the only driveway on the road and put their driveway in for 16-wheelers to come in and turn on. This is kind of dumb stuff that gets you regulations,” Richardson said.

“I would like to direct that the manager write a letter to Duke Energy and tell them that we expect better planning and better site planning on this, or we’re going to be discussing for them more than a 100 foot setback,” Richardson said.

Richardson said that to him it appears the developers were thinking “where is the place that you can cause the most trouble on this piece of property. That’s what they did. It’s juvenile. I have a problem with that.”

Richardson said the developers should “even now” relocate the entrance to the project.

Duke Energy Renewables is a commercial business unit of Duke Energy that has completed a 12.5-megawatt commercial-scale solar power project in Beaufort County. The White Post solar project started service in December 2012 and supplies enough electricity to power about 2,500 homes.

SunEnergy1 hired about 125 Beaufort County residents to build the solar farm. Like any construction project, that employment was temporary, but it could lead to additional construction projects like the proposed White Post expansion and Warren Field Airport solar farm.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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