LAURINBURG — In light of a request for a condtional use permit for a solar array on X-Way Road being postponed until the May meeting of the city of Laurinburg’s planning board, the board at its Tuesday meeting was tasked with coming to that meeting prepared with their choice of three proposed ordinances that would govern any solar farms seeking a permit.
City planner Brandi Deese told the board that a solar firm’s request had been pushed back for a second time after she informed the company that neglecting to include a more specific site plan may hurt them when seeking a permit. The request also appeared on the board’s March agenda, but was pushed back to this month when the company failed to include a site plan or other materials requested by the city.
“The solar farms that we have dealt with in the past have been much more prepared,” she said. “They’ve had leases in place, they’ve had surveys done … this is a little bit of a new experience for us. It’s been a little frustrating.”
During its March meeting, Deese hinted that the Laurinburg City Council might have been pursuing placing a moritorium on farms, but on Tuesday Deese said council members had instead chosen to enact an ordinance, seeking the planning board’s recommendation between three that range from basic to what chairman Hal Jernigan called the “Cadillac,” prepared by the North Carolina Solar Center at N.C. State University.
Deese’s recommendation to the board was for the middle ordinance, which defines a solar array, requires such an array to obtain a conditional use permit, requires not only a setback but a screening from any near right-of-ways, enacts a height limit, requires a specific site plan and mentions “deconstruction,” which would eliminate worry of any defunct equipment being left behind at the end of the solar array’s lease.
The basic ordinance does not cover the last two provisions, while the most detailed ordinance covers all of the above while classifying solar arrays based on size, including any residential projects which would place them on or adjacent to homes. Because that method does not prove particularly cost-effective, Deese said, she does not expect that to become an issue in Laurinburg’s near future, and said the ordinance was “overkill” for the city’s most immediate purpose of controlling the large farms which are showing interest in locating within city limits or its extraterritorial jurisdiction.
“If you don’t like any of (the ordinances) feel free to let us know that and we’ll go back to the drawing board,” Deese said.
The board, as at its March meeting, again discussed the recent influx of solar farms, with member Charles Jordan saying that during his 10-year tenure on the Board of Equalization and Review he would work to grant any landowner’s request to have their property values lowered because of a nearby solar farm.
“It’s not a good next-door neighbor,” he said.
Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco.