The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors approved 7-0 amendments to the Utility Scale Solar Development Policy Tuesday during their monthly morning meeting.
The discussion of the policy, which was crafted by the rules committee and forwarded to the full board without recommendation, took almost an hour and dove into the minutiae of policy and caused some heated discussion among board members.
Cedar Mountain Supervisor Jack Frazier took umbrage at the fact he had to read about the rules committee meeting in the newspaper and didn’t receive an invite to the meeting - citing how controversial and important this subject is to the community.
“This procedure should be open to all,” he said.
BOS chairman and Jeffersonton District supervisor Brad Rosenberger clarified that all board members are “invited” to committee meetings and may speak at the pleasure of the committee chairman.
After that discussion was handled, the meat of the discussion was on several points in the policy and if the language was too narrow.
Frazier was a proponent for having more focused language in the policy, so as to protect the county and its citizens from being harmed by developers bringing utility scale solar into the community.
“I think there needs to be two bonds passed instead of just one,” Frazier said, referencing the bond a developer would have to present for decommission. “The first bond should be to insure the project is complete.”
County attorney Bobbi Jo Alexis later in the meeting added language, being presented as item No. 6 in the policy, that would address any bond issues that Frazier had.
Frazier then discussed item No. 10, on the total land used for a project. The policy reads: “Specifically, it is intended that approximately 2,400 total acres or 240 megawatts of production serve as an upper target for utility scale solar development, which is representative of the County’s footprint on the electrical grid.”
Frazier argued that since most of the solar scale projects only produce 20 to 25 percent of electricity, that 240 megawatts could be misinterpreted or could lead developers to want to do more than 2,400 acres.
Alexix explained the county could not set a hard cap - but they can have a target number for a solar footprint on the grid.
“How do we determine what the grid would be?” Catalpa Supervisor Sue Hansohn asked. “As we grow that number is going to grow.”
Stevernsburg District supervisor Bill Chase questioned what this policy was attempting to do as each case is supposed to be determined on merit.
“Citizens of this county think the comprehensive plan is ironclad - the comprehensive plan could be changed day by day,” he said. “Is this a policy or just a guideline?”
After extension conversation on the policy - which included language designting by the Virginia Department Resources pursuant to Civil War battlefields, project phasing and use permit conditions - the board agreed to approve the policy as is, while leaving open the possibility of revisiting it if a future board would be interested.
Rosenberger summed up the discussion succinctly: “This is better than what we have, we should adopt what we have here and continue to work with it.”
In other business:
The board approved 7-0 to purchase a bus for the transport of inmates to and from the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail, at a cost of $106,243. Sheriff Scott Jenkins explained that by purchasing a bus, it would be more cost effective than using the two vans the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office currently utilizes.
The board voted 7-0 to “continue to explore” a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee concept of taking ownership of Mountain Run Lake Park. Owned by the Town of Culpeper, the park is located in the county and would require the town to deed over the property to the county. The advisory committee explained that it would help meet needs in the Salem District of the county and laid out the expected cost of a little more than $142,000 that would require three new hires and maintenance of the facility.