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Commissioners vote down solar farm

ELIZABETH HEFFNER

Staff Writer

Lincoln County’s Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 against the contentious construction of a solar farm in Denver during their meeting Monday night. The Times-News reported last week that the Planning Board voted 4-4 against the approval of Strata Solar’s solar farm due to its proximity to SailView, an upscale residential community. Commissioners opposed the Strata Solar’s proposal tonight on the grounds that two of the four “finding of the facts” were not met.

According to Commissioner James Klein, the Unified Development Code (UDO) defines the land in question to be used for traditional, single-family homes, unless other use of the land could promote growth. He then explained that he believes the solar farm proposal would not drive growth. In regard to whether the residents’ property values would change, Klein stated that an upscale residential community was an atypical location for a solar farm, and that because of this, no data was currently available to confirm or deny a financial impact on property values.

While commissioners explained to those attending that public comments would not be tolerated, many attendees opted to express their viewpoints nonverbally. Several audience members raised signs inscribed with phrases such as “Property Values” and “Don’t Gamble with Our Taxes.”

Once alerted of the silent protest, Board of Commissioners Chairman Alex Patton stated that in order to proceed with the meeting, all signs would need to be lowered and stowed away.

After learning of the commissioners’ vote, the auditorium erupted in applause. At that time, Commissioner Carroll Mitchem, who was recused from the proceedings after allegations of a prior relationship with Strata Solar came to light, addressed his fellow council members and the audience.

“You just voted to approve something that could be 10,000 times worse than a solar farm,” Mitchem said.

One audience member then retorted, “Bring on the farm!” Others responded to Mitchem that they would not be voting to re-elect Mitchem when his term ends.

Monday night’s meeting is the county commissioners’ last public meeting for the 2013 year. Meetings will resume in January.

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