Pasquotank to consider another solar halt
By Jon Hawley
Friday, September 7, 2018
Pasquotank County officials are considering placing another 60-day moratorium on new solar farms, apparently because a still-secret solar developer is changing details of the project it’s proposing to build in the county.
County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to call for a public hearing on a moratorium on applications for new solar farms, County Manager Sparty Hammett said Wednesday.
The public hearing is set for Oct. 1 but could be called for at a special meeting later this month if necessary, Hammett said. Commissioners would start the moratorium through an ordinance, triggering the need for a public hearing before its implementation.
Hammett also said the moratorium would be for 60 days.
That’s the same duration as the moratorium that ended early last month. County officials put that moratorium in place after a solar developer indicated it wants to build a massive solar farm in the county. The moratorium ordinance then estimated the solar farm could be as large as 3,500 acres. County officials have said the proposed solar facility would span across farmland northwest of Elizabeth City.
The purpose of the moratorium was to allow county officials to amend the county’s solar farm ordinance to include new restrictions. By forbidding solar farm applications until new rules are in place, county officials sought to guarantee the developer’s project couldn’t be grandfathered under the old rules.
However, commissioners didn’t change their solar rules during the moratorium. After a closed-door meeting with the developer, commissioners offered tentative support for the project and said any restrictions on it could be handled through a conditional use permit.
On Wednesday, however, Hammett explained the details of the project had changed. He declined to provide specifics, but said the developer is considering different locations now. That led commissioners to move to reinstate the moratorium, he said.
In looking to restrict the solar farm, commissioners have voiced concerns about the project taking farmland out of use. If the developer does pursue the project, the loss of farmland will have to be balanced against the economic benefits of the solar facility’s construction and contribution to the county’s property tax revenues.