Spencer Board of Aldermen approves moratorium on solar farms

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

By Amanda Raymond


SPENCER — The Spencer Board of Aldermen approved a 60-day hold on applications for and construction of solar energy system sites and solar farms at a special called meeting Monday.

Within that time, Land Management Director Troy Powell will present proposed zoning amendments to the Planning Board and Board of Aldermen that would keep SES sites and solar farms from being within one mile of each other and away from town entrances.

The proposed amendments would also require a bond or irrevocable letter of credit that would help the town if the solar farms are abandoned.

There are two solar energy sites in town — one 32-acre site and another 100-acre site nearby that has been approved but not yet constructed. The 32-acre site is along North Salisbury Avenue between the Freedle Lane and Sowers Road intersections. The 100-acre site will be off Hackett Street.

Those sites will not be affected by the moratorium or proposed zoning amendments.

Powell said town staff has realized that it is possible that other solar farms could be proposed on undeveloped land near those two solar farms, raising concern about the negative impact on quality of life for the town and extraterritorial jurisdiction residents.

“The two solar sites that are there are very close together,” Powell said. “If one of those other parcels happened to develop into the same or similar type of operation, it is creating … a clustering of these sites, which may hinder or redirect the development of that land, whether it be residential, industrial, jobs or anything.”

The town has received complaints that the screenage at the 32-acres site is incompatible. Nearby residents also have complained about the construction, activity and operation at the sites and are worried about the potential impacts on property values.

The moratorium cited a 2016 report to the North Carolina General Assembly from the state Department of Environmental Quality. It said the department is worried that large areas being converted into solar farms could lead to a loss of agricultural land, jobs, wildlife habitat and food availability for wildlife.

The aldermen were concerned about how close the solar sites are to each other, stating in the moratorium that it “could have detrimental impact on the orderly development of land and have a negative impact on the aesthetic features of the town.”

Powell said the moratorium will give town staff time to research the effects of clustering.

After the meeting, Mayor Jim Gobbel said Spencer is a “green-minded community” but added there is limited land available in the town and he wants to keep development options open.

He also said he wants to be sure future developments would align with the town’s Vision 2025 Land Use Plan.

Alderman Mike Boone made a motion to approve the moratorium, and it passed unanimously. Aldermen Kevin Jones and David Lamanno were absent from the meeting.

Powell will present the proposed amendments to the Planning Board in February and the Board of Aldermen in March. There will be a public hearing on the amendments during the Board of Aldermen’s meeting in March.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.