I wouldn’t want to be a Lincoln County commissioner right now.
The board will eventually have to vote whether to approve a very contentious 36-acre solar-panel farm on Webbs Road in Denver that has pitted supporters of the farm against residents of SailView, an upscale neighborhood that begins at the end of the road.
And whatever the commissioners decide, the fallout isn’t going to be pretty.
The recommendation of the Planning Board isn’t really going to give county leaders another group’s opinion to fall back on. The board split 4-4 on the rezoning request on Monday and, as a result, made a recommendation to approve with several stipulations about the farm’s landscaping and maintenance. The political consequences of the vote will inevitably fall squarely on the shoulders of the commissioners.
The board will be addressing a fundamental issue — do Lincoln County ordinances favor the rights of an individual to do what they wish with their property, or do they protect a larger group from potential negative consequences of those individual property decisions?
The argument that SailView residents have repeatedly made is that the solar farm will dramatically lower property values in the community, and therefore lower property tax revenue for the county, because the solar farm won’t be attractive in appearance. The residents have made that argument despite assurances from Strata Solar, the company hoping to build the solar field, that landscaping will be put in place that will block the view of the field.
The SailView residents may be right in their evaluation of the effect the solar field will have on their property values, or they may be wrong, but we’re venturing into dangerous territory if we start denying individuals their property rights, one of the fundamental rights of the American economic system.
That’s the vote commissioners will have to make. And I don’t envy them for it.
Michael Gebelein is managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News.