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Planning board wants more information on solar array planned for community college

By David Purtell

david.purtell@salisburypost.com

A planned solar array at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College received pushback from residents who live near the site during the Salisbury Planning Board meeting Tuesday.

After hearing testimony on the solar array, Planning Board members voted to have the issue go to a committee for further review before moving forward.

The college wants to build a one-megawatt solar array, which is being funded by a private donor, on land along Old Concord Road. The solar array would be used to provide approximately 35-40 percent of the college’s energy needs.  The land is about 4.5 acres in size and is just north and on the other side of Old Concord Road from a neighborhood on Stone Ridge Drive.

There is also a subdivision to the north of the site across Old Concord Road. The solar array would be just south of a drive that leads into the campus.

About a dozen people, who the live in the neighborhoods and on Old Concord Road, spoke against the plans. Their concerns ranged from property values going down because of the solar array to health issues.

Others were against the land, which is owned by the college, being rezoned from General Residential to Institutional Campus — something’s that’s been an issue for years, according to Planning Board member Randy Reamer.

The college needs to have the land, including another 5 acres around the area where the solar array would be, rezoned in order to allow for the solar array.

Some residents said they didn’t want to have to look at the solar array from their homes. One man noted his dislike for the solar panels at the Freightliner plant in Cleveland.

The array would need to be setback from the road 250 feet. And, there would also have to be a buffer zone — trees — installed so the array is hidden from view. The panels would face south.

On health issues, residents were concerned about the possibility of groundwater contamination from the solar array. But Jeff Deal, with the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy, told the board he is not aware of any peer-reviewed studies showing groundwater contamination from solar arrays.

Also, some residents were concerned that some solar panels contain cadmium, a heavy metal that’s a known carcinogen. But Deal also said this was a non-issue that can be dealt with at the end of a solar panel’s lifespan — 30 to 35 years in the case of the array planned for RCCC. He said there are safe ways to recycle cadmium and other heavy metals.

Many household electronics, like TVs and computers, contain heavy metals, Deal said, adding that the interior parts of a solar panel are protected by an aluminum frame.

Board members said they’d like more information, specifically on how solar arrays could affect property values. The members assigned the matter to the Planning Board’s committee 2.

During the meeting, the board did approve for recommendation a Conditional District Overlay for a new hotel on Jake Alexander Boulevard S. near Interstate 85.

Narsi Properties plans to build a six-story Home 2 Suites hotel next to the Econo Lodge just South of I-85. Because the land parcel is so small, 1.43 acres, the developer asked for the building to be six stories high — the city’s limit in Commercial Mixed Used zones is four.

Plans call for the hotel, which would be between the Econo Lodge and the I-85 north on-ramp,  to have 93 rooms

Because of state Department of Transportation rules, no left turns will be allowed into or out of the hotel parking lot, and the developer will have to pay the cost of having a median installed on Jake Alexander Boulevard to prevent left turns into the hotel. Drivers heading south on Jake Alexander Boulevard will have to make a U-turn at the traffic light in front of the Econo Lodge in order to get to the hotel’s parking lot.

City Council should consider the Conditional District Overlay for the hotel during its April 7 meeting.

In other business Tuesday:

• The board approved “daycare” as a permitted use at the office building at 108 Dorsett Drive off Statesville Boulevard. The ARC of Rowan wants to start an after school program for “intellectually disabled” middle-schoolers and high schoolers at the office building.

• The board approved an amendment to the Conditional District Overlay for the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s new central office building on North Main Street. The change includes adding windows to the north face of the building now that the Shulenburger house has been demolished. Also, the land parcel that the house sat on has been split, with a portion going to the school system and the rest going to Richard’s Bar-B-Q on the adjacent lot.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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