Community meeting held for Batesville solar project

Last night, a community meeting was held for a special use permit for a 60-acre utility-scale solar facility near Batesville. Sun Tribe Solar is applying for the 8-megawatt project on behalf of the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, which purchased the property last year. Supervisors updated the zoning code to allow such facilities with a special use permit. 

Bobby Jocz is a permitting lead with Sun Tribe Solar. 

“Once the life of this facility is complete, the site will be restored to its original condition,” Jocz said. 

Neighbors had the opportunity to ask questions about the project. Paul Miller is a resident of Craigs Store Road, where the site would be located.

“I’m in general in favor of solar development, but I’m not so sure about this particular location when I look at opportunities for development on top of buildings in urban areas,” Miller said. 

Miller asked if there could be opportunities for sheep to be able to graze on the property. Miller and others also expressed concern about outdoor lighting at the facility given concerns about preserving the dark sky. 

Mark Tueting also lives on Craigs Store Road and he is concerned on the visual impacts for the years before vegetated landscaping grows in. He also had a question about whether this would be a “substantial detriment” 

“I’m excited solar and they’ve been really good to work with and they’ve talked about letting my son keep running his sheep there, but I have to worry about property values, too,” Tueting said. “I think most of us who live in the area said we wanted to live in a rural area. We know we probably wouldn’t have bought here if there was a power plant next door.” 

Bill Fritz with Albemarle’s Community Development Department said there is a high bar to stop a project based on the claims for “substantial detriment.”

“Substantial detriment that planners use is that the impact is such a severe impact that it denies the right to use another property,” Fritz said. “For example, if I have a use that generates a massive amount of odor, and I am next to a restaurant, I have effectively made it so that restaurant cannot operate. That would be a substantial detriment. The mere fact it can be seen would not be a substantial detriment.” 

However, Fritz said there are three other factors staff will review while it conducts its review.

“It may not be a substantial detriment but it might be inconsistent with the character of the area,” Fritz said. The project will next go to the Planning Commission for a recommendation followed by the Board of Supervisors. 

Watch the whole video of the community meeting on YouTube.

Location of the property on Craigs Store Road where the 60-acre facility would be located.

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the February 24, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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