ELIZABETHTOWN — The solar farm issue has all but lost its power, at least as far as Elizabethtown is concerned.
In November 2016, South River Co., LLC petitioned Elizabethtown for a solar farm to be located on a 29-acre lot on M&M Street, between Peanut Plant Road and MLK Drive. When a public hearing was held, dozens of community residents showed up to protest the petition, and it was ultimately voted down by the town council.
In July, Walter Campbell, who owns the property on which South River was proposing to construct the solar farm, appeared before the county commissioners, asking them on behalf of interested investors to draft a letter to the town council requesting they reconsider the proposal. With an 8-1 vote, the commissioners agreed to do so, and the letter was sent.
Elizabethtown Town Manager Eddie Madden recently spoke about the town’s response to the commissioners’ letter.
“It’s really a non-issue at this point,” he explained. “The application was withdrawn, and solar farms are no longer a permitted use on the property.”
Madden was alluding to the February decision of the town council to amend the zoning ordinance to include a section specifically for solar energy. Under the amendment, solar energy is divided into three categories: a Level 1 system encompasses roof-mounted, building-integrated panels. Ground-mounted systems no more than 10 acres are considered Level 2, and a Level 3 system describes those systems greater than 10 acres. Only Level 1 systems are permitted in residential areas like the M&M site.
“Solar farms are allowed in any area zoned industrial,” Madden commented, adding that a piece of property located on West Broad Street would make an ideal spot for a solar farm, as it could provide clean, renewable energy to nearby plants.
An incentive presented to the commissioners was the investment in the community. According to the potential lease of the property, investors agreed to pay $20,000 per year for the life of a 40-year lease — money which would be used for community upgrades and necessary repairs. Madden, however, said the money was not considered an incentive by the Newtown community.
“The company originally made a comparable offer in exchange for taxes, which we would have invested back in the community,” he explained. “It was originally somewhere around $8,000, then $16,000 and their final offer was somewhere around $20,000. The community knew about this, and they were still against the solar farm.”
At the public hearing last year and again at the commissioners’ meeting, residents in the neighborhood stated unknown health concerns as their primary reason for opposition to the proposed project.
According to Madden, a response to the commissioners’ letter was sent within a week of receipt of the original, detailing the information above.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.