Mountain Pine solar project moves on to Buckingham supervisors

Published 2:54 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

At their November meeting, the Buckingham County Planning Commission voted to table the latest solar facility until the board of supervisors passed the solar policy. Now that supervisors have adopted the policy, the Mountain Pine solar project was back up for discussion during the planning commissions December meeting.

In November, Mountain Pine Arvonia LLC & Mountain Pine Arvonia II LLC with Hodson Energy presented its plan for two 80-megawatt facilities located both north and south of Blinkys Road, State Route 672, where Bear Garden Creek crosses under the road in Marshall Magisterial District.

Kyle West of Hudson Energy stated at the November meeting that they are not opposed to waiting for this draft to be codified before moving forward as they weren’t aware of this draft and what is expected for this facility from the county. However, with the policy still new the commission didn’t completely agree on how to move forward. 

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The board of supervisors created a solar committee to set standards for when these facilities request to come to the county. Now that it’s adopted, anyone who applies for a special use permit as of Monday, Jan, 1 will have to follow these rules. Since the request for this facility was put in beforehand the question was how to proceed. 

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Commissioner Pete Kapuscinski argued that since the policy is in place it should be followed.

“On a couple of occasions already I’ve argued that if the county is putting together a policy and we should at least consider that policy in determining these conditions that we want these solar policies to adhere to,” said Kapuscinski. 

According to Nicci Edmondston, clerk to the commission and zoning administrator, the board is the policy maker and decided that it goes into effect after the first of the year. As commissioners, they can add conditions to match the policy if they choose to. However, this application isn’t subject to the solar policy. 

“I don’t want to be held accountable for speeding if the speeding law goes into effect January 1, and I’m strolling along on the 24th of December and you give me a ticket for speeding in that area because you’re going to change that sign,” said Commissioner Joyce Gooden. “So I disagree with Mr. Kapuscinski as far as holding people accountable to something that will go into effect later. I don’t think that’s our job.” 

Vice Chair Ashley Shumaker and Supervisor Danny Allen voiced their agreement with Goodman as this is what the board directed with the new solar policy. This hearing was to make sure that this facility met the current guidelines put in place before the policy before sending it on to the board of supervisors. 

Goodman made a motion to approve and send it on to the board, which did not carry. Kapuscinski then made three separate motions for conditions including setting buildings back from 350ft to 500ft, moving streams and wetlands from 50ft to 100ft and moving the right away from 75 ft to 100ft. Each didn’t pass with a vote of 3-4 with Gooden, J. D. Crews, Allen and Shumaker voting against and Chairman John Bickford abstaining. 

Edmondston directed the commissioners back to the points that needed a decision for this hearing. The commission voted to approve the removal of Sleepy Hollow Road and increase the setback from 50ft to 75ft from the fence. The motion then passed to send this on to the board of supervisors with approval.