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County imposes 2nd halt on solar

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, October 7, 2018

For the second time in less than six months, Pasquotank commissioners have imposed a 60-day moratorium on applications for new solar farms in the county.

County officials cited their expectation of receiving an application for a large-scale solar project as the reason for imposing the first two-month moratorium on new solar farm applications in early June. They said the temporary halt from receiving and reviewing applications would give county officials time to consider revised regulations addressing solar farm projects.

After the 60-day moratorium expired in early August, no new applications for solar farms were received. But county officials still apparently anticipate receiving an application for a large-scale solar project.

The second moratorium ordinance commissioners adopted Monday night states “it is anticipated the county may receive an application for a new large-scale solar farm (being approximately 3,000 to 3,500 acres) in areas designated ‘Agricultural’ or ‘Industrial’ in the near future.”

The ordinance also cites the county’s Land Use Plan’s emphasis on protecting agricultural and industrial areas from encroachment from other uses.

“A new large scale solar farm in the ‘Industrial’ zoning districts of Pasquotank County could potentially reduce the county’s industrial zoned land by potentially 50 percent,” the ordinance states. “This property is needed for future expansion of business and/or industry and could generate potential jobs for county residents.”

During the moratorium period, county staff — particularly County Attorney Mike Cox and Planning Director Shelley Cox — will work on a text amendment to address concerns about large-scale solar projects. The text amendment will go before the Pasquotank Planning Board for its review before commissioners act on it.

Local businessman H.V. Cole said during a public hearing on the solar farm moratorium Monday that he doesn’t like prime farmland being used for a solar farm. However, he also doesn’t believe the county should tell farmers what they can do with their land.

Cole said that as a taxpayer he would be willing to support the county buying a piece of prime farmland to prevent it from becoming used as a large-scale solar farm.

“I don’t know the answer to it,” Cole said. “I wish I did.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the solar farm moratorium. Commissioner Jeff Dixon was absent from Monday’s meeting.

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