Old Ridge Road solar project still on hold

Published 2:22 pm Sunday, February 25, 2024

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It’s going to be at least another month before New Leaf brings their proposed Old Ridge Road solar project back for a vote. That’s because company officials say they’re still working to address some of the concerns raised by residents. 

“I got the call today,” Prince Edward Planning Director Robert Love said on Tuesday. “They have decided to hold it off for another month. The earliest that would go to the board is the April meeting.”

Now this one might get a little confusing, so follow us for a minute. New Leaf Solar’s application is for a three-megawatt solar energy facility, located at 4122 Old Ridge Road. That’s about half a mile from the intersection at Prince Edward Highway or US 460. The property in question is 104.1 acres. That includes a proposed 24.3 acres for the solar facility and then the rest serving as a type of landscape buffer.

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The Prince Edward County Planning Commission gave a unanimous vote not to recommend during a Dec. 19 meeting. However, it was New Leaf’s right to then go before Prince Edward supervisors for a public hearing, despite the planning commission’s vote.

The group decided to go a different route. After that Dec. meeting, New Leaf officials reached out to the county, saying they wanted to try and address the residents’ concerns. And while originally that was expected to come back to the county for discussion in March, New Leaf is still working with the community. 

“They’re going to try and have another community meeting, which I’m told is March 4,” Love told the planning commission on Tuesday, Feb. 20. “They’re working to address hunting, to address timbering (concerns).” 

Opposition remains for Old Ridge Road solar

To date, in all discussions The Herald has had with property owners in the area, nothing much has changed. They still don’t see the project as a good fit. Those concerns, raised during several meetings over the last few months, include the impact and potential decrease of property values due to the solar farm, along with questions about what would happen to panels when they have to be replaced.

It was also pointed out that putting a solar farm on that part of Old Ridge Road would appear to violate the county’s comprehensive plan, which calls to protect part of that area from “adverse development”. At least one of the residents claimed the lines drawn on the company’s map were incorrect, arguing that they included part of his property in the project when he hasn’t sold and has no plans to. 

Planning Commission members asked about that last part in their Feb. 20 meeting, with Love saying it had been a mistake with using the tax map and would be corrected in any final site plan. He added that New Leaf had agreed to survey the property, if approved, before moving forward. 

What’s next? 

Right now, the only definite decision on Old Ridge Road solar involves the community meeting. Beyond that, nothing is set in stone. We’ll have to wait and see if or when they request county staff to remove the temporary hold. After that, any future public hearings would be announced weeks beforehand in The Herald.