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County approves solar farm off of Mooresville Road

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan County commissioners on Wednesday gave approval for a solar farm that will sit between two neighborhoods on Mooresville Road.

Mooresville-based Lumina Sun Inc. plans a 1.8-megawatt solar farm on an 11-acre portion of a 46-acre parcel on John Rainey Road, an unpaved road between the Homestead Hills and West Ridge neighborhoods.

Representatives of Lumina Sun said the solar form would involve about $2 million in new investment, and the solar panels could last as long as 50 years.

At Wednesday’s meeting, two people other than the developers spoke about the request. One lives adjacent to the site and said she is OK with the proposed solar farm but asked about potential noise associated with the development and tree buffers.

Another person questioned what the solar farm could mean for the areas’s future but did not express opposition to the development.

For their part, the commissioners also spoke about tree buffers and noise that may be noticeable for solar farm neighbors. Developers said the facility would not generate any more noise than typical electrical equipment.

The commissioners did not include any conditions in their approval, but they did ask that trees removed as part of construction be replaced afterward if possible.

Other conditions included in the proposal include that the solar energy panels be oriented 180 degrees with a 30-degree tilt, that developers obtain a driveway permit, and that warning signage be maintained at 120-foot intervals around the property.

Assistant Planning Director Shane Stewart presented a glare study that showed the solar farm could affect planes headed to the Rowan County Airport for a period of 10 minutes or less during summer months.

Stewart said he spoke with former Airport Director Thad Howell about the potential for glare, and Howell said it was not a concern.

After holding a quasijudicial hearing on the solar farm, the commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the facility.

In other business at Wednesday’s meeting:

• The commissioners set a public hearing at 10 a.m. July 17 to gather input about a $27.5 million loan that will be used to build the consolidated western Rowan County elementary school.

Commissioners had canceled a meeting scheduled on July 17 but needed to schedule the public hearing because of a deadline for approval from the North Carolina Local Government Commission, county staff said.

County Manager Aaron Church said the county will seek loan proposals from banks in the coming weeks. Church said the county will seek a bank loan rather than a bond partially because of low interest rates. A general obligation bond, for example, would also involve a longer process and require voter approval.

The Rowan-Salisbury school system hopes to open the western Rowan elementary school by December 2018, according to county staff. In order to meet that deadline, construction would need to start in August or September of this year.

Asked why the public hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. instead of the usual 6 p.m. meeting time, county commissioners and staff provided the following reasons: some commissioners have already made plans for the usual meeting time, the matter has been extensively discussed and a legal agreement requires the $27.5 million be provided to the school system for the western Rowan elementary school.

• Commissioners approved a $381,222.91 contract with Modern Construction Co. to renovate the Rowan County Airport.

The terminal building expansion involves adding 800 square feet of space and renovating 600 square feet of existing space. Contractors will build a larger conference room, turn the existing conference room into a pilot’s lounge and create an office out of the existing pilot’s lounge.

Commissioners authorized Church to obtain costs for remodeling the former J.C. Penney building, also called the West End Plaza events center.

Specific renovations would include additional restrooms, paint, flooring, electrical upgrades and a portable audio/visual system.

• Commissioners voted to increase the yearly tattoo permit fee from $200 to $250.

• Commissioners approved a rezoning that will change a tract near the intersection of Webb and Old Concord roads from rural agricultural to commercial business and industrial.

The land in question measures 2 acres and is connected to land owned by ABC Towing of the Carolinas.

• Commissioners voted to sell a tract on Martha Street in Kannapolis to Lizbeth Ballesteros for $8,000.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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