‘We need transparency, accountability, and an excellent solar ordinance

Letter

To the Editor:

In February 2021, Michael Helm, Page County’s part-time attorney, presented a proposed solar ordinance. It offered little protection to the county, not surprising because the information contained within the document showed that it was authored by Gentry Locke Rake & Moore LLP, the law firm that represents Urban Grid, the industrial solar company determined to build large-scale facilities in the county.

The obvious questions were asked:

• How did a document created by an industrial solar company — and designed to protect their interests — get submitted by the attorney working for Page County?

• And how much did taxpayers pay for this? 

No one provided an explanation.

Now, the draft solar ordinance prepared by the Planning Commission (and discussed at two meetings in April 2022) is stalled in legal review by Mr. Helm. The delay could be just a matter of timing; however, it could be the first step in an attempt to weaken protections for Page County and develop an ordinance that protects industrial solar development and threatens the county’s future. 

We can’t let that happen. The taxpayers of Page County need to be confident that the individuals that we pay to protect our interests are doing their jobs. 

We need transparency, accountability, and an excellent solar ordinance — we need the ordinance developed and approved by the Planning Commission to move forward.

Beth Snider ~ Luray, Va.

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14 Comments

  1. Great letter and investigation. We need honesty and integrity and people loyal to and protecting the interests of Page County. It seems like, per the data in the document, we paid an attorney to present a document actually authored by an entity whose interests are in opposition to those of the county. Conflict of interest, anyone?

  2. “• How did a document created by an industrial solar company — and designed to protect their interests — get submitted by the attorney working for Page County?“

    How did a document created by God, and designed to protect his interests (as well as the people), get submitted by Moses, who was working for the Israelites??

  3. There is a point where “conflict of interest” becomes criminal conspiracy, or perhaps racketeering. I hope the Board of Supervisors and the part-time County Attorney are reading these comments, because the Virginia Attorney General has already received a note from a concerned citizen. While the public feedback is overwhelmingly against this type of solar project, it doesn’t seem our elected representatives are listening. With regard to the county attorney, there is clearly a significant issue. In general, too much is happening behind the scenes and when there is money involved, silence is not golden.

    • “While the public feedback is overwhelmingly against this type of solar project”…This isn’t true at all. There are group of aggressive people against solar (mostly people who’s view would be ruined by the panels). Then there’s most everyone I know who think the farmer should be able to do what he wants with his land as long as its not hurting anyone. He can build industrial chicken houses without asking permission, so why not some solar panels?

      • The Racey Engineering report for the Dogwood solar plant, which has been been approved, states that the project will place wells as far as 9 miles away at risk. This is because that land, like much of Page County, is fragile karst topography. There is a lot more at risk if a solar factory is badly planned than views! This is why we need a good ordinance to ensure that solar factories are sited and sized to protect the county. We also need legal representation that does not have potential conflicts of interests. We need to know that the ordinances presented by the lawyer we pay with our tax dollars is writing the ordinance and that documents do not show authorship by solar companies or their lawyers. The planning commission is chaired by Jared Burner, a very successful Page County farmer, and there are several longtime farmers on the commission. They have prepared an excellent ordinance and hopefully, legal review will be completed soon and that ordinance will be adopted by the BOS.

      • Dianne,
        If you have listened to the meetings, you would know that many farmers have come and spoken out against these projects and have talked about the fiscal impacts on the farm stores and the permanent loss of farmland. No one is suggesting discouraging farmers from using solar on their own property to be used for their farming operation. It is the industrial solar projects that are driven by outside interests that are the issue and will negatively impact Page County for generations.

        Chicken houses are agricultural land use, and industrial solar factories are not. I am sure you can note a difference in animal operations to having 350,000 panels that cover 550 acres and a substation that covers 3+acres with 60-foot-high masts. This is not an agricultural use and should be limited to industrial zoned land, not prime farmland.

        Page County needs to have a solar ordinance in place outlining the acceptable size and location of these industrial projects, just like other land uses are governed by other zoning ordinances.

      • ‘some’ solar panels isn’t the issue…if you want to power YOUR own property with solar, no problem. 350,000+ panels in one area is like building back to back chicken houses covering 400+ acres. neither is responsible land use.

    • Lots of discussion of “farmers” here, not much understanding that this is about all Page County residents whether they own a farm or not. Also, pretty sure none of the solar supporters in the comments came to any of the public hearings, because if they did, they didn’t say much. Build all the solar capacity for your own home and family that you want. We all should. Property rights are important. However, if you want to take hundreds of acres of prime farmland and turn it into an industrial site that will exist for decades, that decision involves the entire community, not just “some farmers.”

  4. None of the farmers are against solar farms in Page County.
    It’s only a tiny bunch maybe, 40 or 50 cranks who are.

    • perhaps you should refer to the letter in this very paper awhile back from the Farmer’s Association that made their position pretty clear…. they are against industrial solar on Ag land.

  5. The property rights of one do not override the many potential risks to all of the neighboring properties, businesses, and the county as a whole. I would hope everyone would agree with that!

    Page County needs a solar ordinance to protect the county – and one that is NOT WRITTEN BY URBAN GRID or one of their lawyers!

  6. having been to most of the PC and BOS meetings since this issue raised its head here in Page county, i can truthfully say i have heard several hundred people ( not just a ‘small,aggressive group’) speak AGAINST industrial solar on farmland,and a very few for it. those who are for it seem to be the folks who stand to profit. much hinky stuff has been going on,and the developer has been shown time and again to be misleading…if not downright deceptive. folks in favor need to do a little more concrete research, rather than risking the health of the whole county on smoke,mirrors and feelings.

  7. What? Farmers are against solar farms? Who care what they think about anything? The DEMONcrats are making things difficult for those boys, so why can’t we? Food chain drying up, price inflation, food getting exported to foreign countries, mother’s breastmilk getting cancelled, limited fertilizer.
    You may be sorry in the end, but…
    The government knows what’s best.

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