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Rowan County residents react to solar farm withdrawal

SALISBURY – Some Rowan County residents are celebrating the news that developers of China Grove Solar have withdrawn plans to build a 65-megawatt solar farm on 428 acres in western Rowan County.

Officials with China Grove Solar said questions asked by members of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners were the reason for withdrawing an application for a conditional-use permit

“After further site plan revisions, we appeared before the board on Sept. 16 and received additional feedback. That feedback was clear: Board members, through their questions, demonstrated they were not ready to issue the conditional-user permit for this project,” developer Cooperative Solar wrote in a letter to the commissioners.

The land on which the solar farm was planned is primarily owned by Harry Welch Jr.

When Rowan County resident Jim Denham heard the news, he was happy.

“I was elated,” Jim Denham said. “My first thought about the size of the solar farm was I have to do some examination to see what’s involved here and find the facts.”

Denham said the location of the solar panels — off Neel, Sherills Ford and Old Bradshaw roads — was wrong.

“I had already invested about three or four weeks of going around neighborhoods to get people to sign against this before the application withdrawal,” he said.

With the application withdrawn, the battle has been won, he said.

Gail Reynolds said she is thrilled, too.

“I think it’s sad to see beautiful countryside be completely destroyed. I love the outdoors,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the solar farm proposal made her more empathetic toward others who are dealing with solar farms potentially being planted in their neighborhoods.

“There are better places for those to be installed. Areas more fitting are ones near the old fiber plant, where there are not many houses around and so many woods to be destroyed,” she said. “To think the woods were going to be completely destroyed and replaced with solar panels is very disturbing. There is nothing more beautiful than woods and walking through woods.”

Paul Laity said he was “speechless” after hearing the news about the withdrawal.

“My first thought was, ‘This some kind of joke?’” Laity said.

Laity expressed concern that the solar farm would affect local wildlife.

“My take is the project is so big and it’s not organized in one great big huge field. It’s just got fingers of land or property,” Laity said. “My place or my property is right smack in the middle of it. We could have been surrounded on three sides with solar panels and without any buffer material around the perimeter. It was very poorly thought out.”

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