Letter — Why the rush? No reason to fast track solar project

Published 5:43 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

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To the Editor:

Buckingham Planning Commission (PC) and Board of Supervisors (BOS) are scheduled to vote on Special Use Permit (SUP) 299 on Feb. 28. This SUP was just introduced to the Board of Supervisors on Feb 14. That’s only two weeks!

The SUP requests a 2,000 acre exemption to the Comprehensive Plan’s AG zoning. This is the largest project Apex has ever attempted and the second largest in Virginia. Apex will sell to a private consumer, not the community, so they are not a “Public Utility.” However, some members of the PC and BOS want to fast-track the proposal against the wishes of residents who are just-now unpacking its shortcomings. Why the Rush?

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Is it because Apex took out a loan? Unlikely, since they have access to DEPCOM’s $3 Billion in assets. Is it because pending SB206 would put this under stringent State Corporation Commission control, rather than DEQ’s “Permit by Rule?’ If so, why would the County sign away 206’s additional protections and oversights?

Is it because the County is afraid of being sued? SUP 299 is an exception. It is tough to sue for something you were never entitled to. That said, residents can sue for actual damages…

Is it because there is no risk? Every solar project over 200 acres experienced devastating failures and impacted residents. Extreme weather events are the norm. An “adequate” plan is actually under-engineered. Runoff, stormwater and road damages are a certainty. Apex continually shifts blame to others.

Bottom Line: Apex needs Buckingham more than we need them. We need to slow this process and demand concessions and real protections from the applicant. Planners and Supervisors who ignore Campbell County’s experience are doomed to repeat it. There is no reason to fast-track SUP 299.

Bradley Pickens