Planning Commission votes down proposed solar facility

Published 3:55 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

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Suffolk, Virginia —

The Suffolk Planning Commission recommended the denial of a ground-mounted solar energy facility. The facility was to be located at 1513 Kings Fork Road, the 7-1 vote has likely upended the project.

Senior Planner Amy Mervine provided details during the meeting, saying that the fenced project area would encompass 36 acres of property with 32 acres of solar panel coverage.

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“The conceptual layout depicts enhanced setbacks with 300 feet in the front and 100 feet on the sides,” Mervine said. “A 50-foot landscape buffer is proposed along the front and 25 feet along the side to minimize potential adverse visual impacts along the public right of way and anointing properties. The nearest residence to the project’s racking area is approximately 750 feet and over 800 feet from the inverters.”

Planning staff also recommended denial of the CUP prior to the vote, with Mervine stating the site is “not appropriate for the proposed use given the location within the central growth area of the comprehensive plan.”

Following a Q&A session, Commissioner Oliver Creekmore commented on the request, reflecting on going over future land use studies and receiving citizen and developer views for the 2045 comprehensive plan.

“The biggest hangup with this is, is the location of where it is, and I know we’ve been going back and forth on this for different projects. And this is why the planning department has recommended denial, because of where it is in the central growth area of the comprehensive plan,” Creekmore said. “Once this is developed as a solar farm, that solar farm is going to be there for a long time. It would prevent any other development on this particular piece of property over that period of time if anybody comes in.”

Creekmore continued, expressing the need to “abide by what we’ve already got in place.”

“And again, it comes back to the location. I don’t have a problem with the solar farms as such, because I think we’re going to be needing this looking down the road, but it’s just the location of this one.”

The CUP will be presented to Suffolk City Council with a recommendation of denial during their April 17 meeting.