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Solar farm gets green light from county

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

Strata Solar received unanimous support Monday night from both the Lincoln County Planning Board and Board of Commissioners to move forward with plans for a solar facility in western Lincoln County.

Several representatives of the company, the largest solar-farm developer in the state, were on hand at the meeting to provide information and answer questions about the project during a public hearing on the conditional-use permit request.

The 35-acre farm, which is to be surrounded by fencing and wooded areas, will be located on Tripple H Lane, roughly 1,200 feet west of Maiden Highway in Lincolnton Township. It will consist of fixed, 7-foot-tall panels that generate energy from sunlight.

Lance Williams, site-development manager for the Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar, told members of both boards that he has worked on similar sites in surrounding counties, including one in Kings Mountain. The farms are very “low-impact,” he said, noting that minimal grading work is required.

He also stressed that once they are up and running, the sites generate no noise and only require one visit from a company worker every two weeks.

Construction, which he expects to begin in March, typically takes about 90 days.

The power generated at the facility will be sold to Duke Energy through a power purchase agreement.

Jerry Church, speaking on behalf of his mother, who lives on property adjoining the planned solar farm, shared his concern for how it may impact her and other neighbors. However, Rich Kirkland, who served as the appraiser for the project, reiterated that adjoining properties should not be affected.

Both boards voted on the request Monday night, as there will not be a second commission meeting this month because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

 

ABC Board

 

Also during Monday night’s meeting, the Board of Commissioners voted to provide compensation for members of the county’s ABC Board, at the recommendation of County Manager George Wood.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Chairman Alex Patton in opposition, to approve of the move.

Wood told commissioners that Lincoln County was “in the minority about not compensating” its ABC Board members. Only 12 out of 162 county and city ABC boards across the state do not compensate the board members, he said.

He suggested paying the chair $1,800 and the two additional members $1,500 on an annual basis, for a total of $4,800, to be funded as an operating expense of the ABC system. Commissioners also agreed to make the move retroactive to July 1 to be included in the current budget year.

ABC Board members will also be entitled to reimbursement for any out-of-town travel expenses on ABC system business.

Patton said there were “lots of boards that work hard” in the county, while Commissioner Carrol Mitchem pointed out that most of those do not generate revenue.

In a memo explaining the request to commissioners, Wood said of the local ABC Board, “They have started an ABC system from scratch in the mid-2000s. They have planned, financed and constructed the facility near Waterside Crossing. The building loan has been paid off earlier than anticipated. Since then, the county has been receiving about $180,000 in profits from this operation.”

“They are rated one of the more efficient local systems in the state,” he added.

In other Board of Commission action at Monday’s meeting:

  • Commissioners unanimously approved the Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the Lincolnton Urban Area, dependent on the vote of the Lincolnton City Council, which is expected to take action on the plan during its meeting Thursday night.
  • Commissioners unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing on a proposed speculative building, to be publicly funded, in the Airlie Industrial Park for its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4. More details on the proposal will also be discussed during this meeting.
  • Library Director Jennifer Sackett conducted a presentation on the Charles R. Jonas Library’s renovations, which recently received the 2011-2012 “Outstanding Remodel Facility” award from the N.C. Public Library Directors Association for 10,000- to 26,000-square-foot facilities. Sackett said the renovation was truly a community project, with many local donations and financial contributions, and has resulted in increased door count, longer visits from patrons and an 81 percent increase in the use of Internet computers. Still on the to-do list is the installation of self-checkout technology and the resurfacing of the parking lot in March.
  • The Board of Commissioners will hold a joint meeting 6 p.m. Thursday with the Lincoln County Board of Education at its administrative building on North Generals Boulevard in Lincolnton.

 

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