Solar Farm in Batesville?

From the Charlottesville Community Engagement newsletter

Solar facility planned near Batesville

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors amended its zoning ordinance in 2017 to allow property owners to petition for permission to install solar panels on fields in order to generate a large scale amount of electricity for consumer use. So far, none have been installed under the changes. 

Now, Sun Tribe Solar has filed a special use permit request for an 8 megawatt facility on a 136 acres property on Craigs Store Road owned by the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. The project would also include a 4 megawatt battery storage unit. The site is currently undeveloped woodlands. More than half of the property would remain forested.  The Timmons Group has produced several environmental studies of the property. One found no “recognized environmental conditions” that would halt the project. 

The application from SunTribe states the project would be built on about 60 acres of the land and is proposed to last for 20 years, with the option for three more 5-year periods. There is also a decommissioning plan that lays out how the project would be deconstructed when it is no longer being used. (project narrative)

“The land disturbance required for construction of a solar facility is far less than most other types of development, such as residential development,” reads the application. “This carbon-free, renewable energy will power 2,600 Central Virginia Electric Cooperative households in Albemarle County.”

The application states the existing property has only generated $500 a year in local taxes due to the land use taxation program. Now that the property has had its agricultural and forest district designation removed, the new landowner will have to pay the full taxes on the property for the past five years. Other new sources of revenue to the county will also be available in the form of personal property taxes on the solar infrastructure. In all, the application states the project would bring in nearly $1 million in property tax revenue over the next forty years. 

“In comparison to the current tax base for this parcel, which would be expected to result in approximately $20,000 over the next 40 years, this project represents an approximately 48 times increase in current tax revenue,” reads the application. 

However, special use permits give adjacent property owners and others the right to make a public comment for the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The first step in the community engagement process is the community meeting that will be held virtually beginning at 5:30 p.m. (meeting info)

Cell Tower in Greenwood?

There’s a meeting today.

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We need cell and internet infrastructure. Simple.

There are two meetings in Albemarle County today where a special use permit for a cell phone tower in Greenwood will be discussed. The Historic Preservation Committee will get a briefing on Verizon’s application for a 94-foot-tall monopole to be built near 7418 Greenwood Station Road.

“Verizon has determined that the area surrounding this proposed site needs expanded coverage to better service the nearby residences, businesses, and traffic along the I-64 Interstate,” reads the staff report for the permit application, which carries the name Scruby Property Verizon Wireless. “Therefore, this site is intended to provide infill coverage while also adding additional network capacity by offloading traffic from the company’s nearest existing sites in all directions.”

The application requires a special use permit because of the height. The property is within an entrance corridor which requires review by the Architectural Review Board. The Historic Preservation Committee is receiving the information because the land is within the Greenwood-Afton Rural Historic District. For nearly twenty years, Albemarle has had a policy that discourages towers. 

“The most important principle for siting personal wireless service facilities in Albemarle County is visibility,” reads a December 2000 report from Kreines and Kreines Inc. that helped shape the county’s ordinance. “Albemarle County should require that sufficient information be submitted with the application to enable the County to measure the visibility of a facility.”

With the pandemic shutting down in-person schools, some have argued the county needs to update its rules. This application has attracted a lot of attention and community members will be able to learn more at the community meeting required as part of the application process. That begins at 6:30 p.m. (meeting info)

In October, staff wrote to the applicant and said they could not recommend approval following a test where a balloon is raised at the site to simulate the tower’s presence.

“The visibility presented at the balloon test is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, the County’s Wireless Policy, or the Zoning Ordinance,” wrote Christoper Perez in an October 16 letter to the applicant’s representatives. The applicants disagree. 

“Objective 10 of the Community Facilities Chapter 12 of the Comprehensive Plan is to support the provision of private utilities, including wireless service when its provision is in keeping with other aspects of the Comprehensive Plan,” reads the current narrative

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