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Our View: Solar farm debate is over, let’s move on

Michael Gebelein
Managing Editor

The controversy surrounding Strata Solar’s rezoning request to build a 36-acre solar farm on the county’s eastern end is resolved, at least officially.
Commissioners voted 3-1 against approving the company’s proposal to rezone a parcel of land just outside the SailView residential community on Lake Norman to accommodate the solar panels at their meeting on Monday. The commissioners’ reasoning, based on the presentation of facts from both sides of the issue and detailed in a story in today’s edition, is tough to argue against.
But that doesn’t make it taste any better, especially considering that the ruling, in essence, denies the landowner his ability to do what he wants with his property.
Proponents of the solar farm have made arguments about “progress” and jobs, both of which are dubious, at best. The solar farm wasn’t going to employ anyone directly, and it’s doubtful the technicians who perform routine maintenance on the panels would be employed by a local company. The real issue is property rights.
Commissioner Carroll Mitchem made a statement, after the vote at Monday’s meeting, that the commissioners who voted down the zoning request might have “voted to approve something that could be 10,000 times worse than a solar farm.”
There have been several not-so-veiled threats from proponents of the solar farm that, if the zoning request was denied, the landowner could build chicken houses or a hog farm or low-income housing on the property. That may be true, but it obviously didn’t help Strata Solar or the landowner get what they wanted.
The whole debate about the solar farm, and the vitriol and indignation with which both sides approached the issue, is yet another example of a larger issue — the “Old Lincoln County” versus “New Lincoln County” battle.
That mentality is backward, regressive, tribalistic and counterproductive, and some members of both sides are guilty of the same prejudices.
We can accomplish much more as a united county, rather than one where imaginary lines, whether based on geography or economic class or place of birth, inhibit our reaction to the important issues.

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