Commissioners scheduled to discuss tax incentive request

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 20, 2016

County commissioners on Monday are scheduled to discuss a tax incentive request for a company considering expanding at one of its sites in the Southeast, including Rowan.

A memo from Rowan Van Geons to Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds about a business expansion nicknamed “Project Orange” doesn’t name the prospective company. Van Geons only says the company already has a facility in Rowan County. The business has multiple facilities across the southeastern United States, Van Geons states.

The project would result in a $5 million to $7 million investment, according to the memo. It would create 30 new jobs over a five-year period. The jobs would pay an average wage of $36,000.

Commissioners aren’t scheduled to formally vote on the incentive request during their 6 p.m. Monday meeting in the Rowan County Administration Building. Instead, commissioners on Monday would need to agree to hold a public hearing on the incentive request during their April meeting.

In his memo, Van Geons says the project would exceed the county’s level one tax incentive amount. The awarded amount of incentives would depend on the actual amount invested by the unnamed company.

If commissioners grant the tax incentives in April, the company would receive a reimbursement rather than having taxes deducted immediately.

In other business from Monday’s agenda:

• Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a solar farm proposal near I-85

One solar farm would be located on a 359.89 acre tract of land adjacent to I-85, between Peeler and Webb roads. The solar farm, however, would only be 30 acres of the total tract. The site would contain two, two-megawatt squares of solar panels, which would sit almost adjacent to railroad tracks and near South Main Street.

The I-85 site has been referred to as the “platinum property,” according to a planning department report. The report notes the name comes from the site’s location between two interstate exists and being adjacent to a railroad track. It was first designated a “shovel-ready” site by the N.C. Department of Commerce in 2011. It was sold to Fitzmark LLC in 2014.

The request before commissioners on Monday would change the sites zoning from a special, I-85 designation to the industrial designation. Commissioners will also consider a special use permit to allow the solar farm.

In his staff report, Planning Director Ed Muire considers several factors related to the approval of the rezoning and conditional use permit. The most significant issue Muire found in his report relates to access to the future solar farm. The solar farm would be located on the Town Creek floodplain. Improved access, such as a paved road, would require a flood study, Muire writes.

The solar farm sits within the southern approach path to the Rowan County Airport. Elevation of the solar panels wouldn’t conflict with the flight of airplanes.

A study included in Monday’s agenda packet, however, finds potential for pilots to experience a glare at several distances when approaching the airport.

• Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a permit for a solar farm on Dunn’s Mountain Road.

The five-megawatt solar farm would be located on the 2300 block of Dunn’s Mountain Road. It would sit between a quarry, trailer park, Dunn’s Mountain Park and Calvary Baptist Tabernacle. O2 Energies EMC, which developed another solar farm in Rockwell, is requesting the Dunn’s Mountain Road solar farm.

A site plan for the solar farm shows the panels located adjacent to Dunn’s Mountain Road on a 59-acre site owned by Carolina Quarries.

In a staff report, Senior Planner Shane Stewart doesn’t find any significant issues with the request from 02 Energies. A study requested by planning staff, however, found a potential for Dunn’s Mountain Park visitors to experience a glare between May and August. The specific times would be 6:20 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. Dunn’s Mountain Park does not open to the public until 11 a.m.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.