Board of Adjustment shoots down $135M solar farm proposal
BY HALEY JONES
At the conclusion of a meeting continued from December, the Iredell County Board of Adjustment voted Thursday night to deny a request for a special-use permit for the proposed Cypress Creek Solar Farm planned for 407 acres off West Page Hager Road in East Iredell County.
Cypress Creek Renewables is a national solar energy developer, builder and operator. The company said the proposed $135 million project would generate more than $66 million in direct economic impact for the community and create 200 jobs during the construction process.
The solar farm would supply enough clean energy to power about 15,000 homes annually. The facility would contribute more than $2.8 million in local tax revenue over the lifetime of the project.
BOA members said opposition from several community members in the East Iredell area played a role in their decision.
Four questions were asked of the BOA during the decision-making process, which were to be answered True or False.
The questions were as follows:
The special-use permit request will not materially endanger the health or public safety in accordance to the proposed plan?
Board members were in agreement that there was no evidence that health or public safety would be endangered. The response was 6-1 true, with member Bill Brater opposed.
Does the special-use criteria meet Iredell County’s Land Development Code?
Board members were in agreement that the solar farm proposal met the code and specifications required. The response was 6-1 true, with Brater again opposing.
The special-use proposal will not substantially injure the value of adjoining property?
The BOA was torn on this question, as chairman Roy West, members Brater, John Gregory and Mac McCombs stated that given the size and high level of visual impact, the solar farm would negatively impact property value. The majority of the board agreed that there was no proof of necessity for this location. The response was 4-3 false, with Bob Dellinger, Tim Johnson and John Allen as proponents.
The special use will be in harmony with the area it is located and will be in general conformity with the county?
Brater, McCombs, Johnson and West stated that the solar farm would not be in harmony with the land. Several members referred to testimonies from the Dec. 21 meeting, in which former county commissioner Steve Johnson and city councilmen Michael Johnson voiced their concerns about the proposed solar farm.
Brater, who answered false to the question, stated that he was not against solar power but was against this particular location. He said he would welcome this applicant in a “more appropriate location.”
The response was 4-3 false, with Dellinger, Gregory and Allen as proponents.
With all of the questions answered, West explained that according to the N.C. Institute of Government, if any of the findings are voted majority false, then the board cannot approve the request.
Brater made a motion to deny the request, which was seconded by McCombs. The vote was a unanimous motion to deny.
Opponents were pleased with the outcome.
“The community is happy with the decision the BOA board made,” said Keith Gatlin, an East Iredell resident. “The BOA did a wonderful job in protecting our community from what would have be an industrial zone. We are not against solar power, but it is just the location.”
Gatlin’s main concern was with the elevation of residential homes surrounding the proposed site, and what he deemed as an impossibility of shielding reflectivity.
“I am very pleased,” said Kristie Darling, who lives on property adjacent to the proposed solar farm. “The BOA looked at the facts and did their homework, paid attention, and listened.”
For now, East Iredell community members are satisfied with the BOA’s decision to deny the solar farm request. All present were relieved that their concerns had been heard.
“We’re sure they’re going to appeal it, but we’re going to do our best to fight it,” said Gatlin.