After a crowd of around 200 attend a briefing on Thursday, organizers of a group concerned about industrial solar projects hope the momentum continues at a meeting tonight.
The Hardin County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 5:00 p.m. on the third floor of the Hardin County Government Building, 150 N. Provident Way in Elizabethtown, to consider a zoning change request from ibV Energy Partners and landowners to enable a solar farm on 11 of the plots of land.
“It looks like a lot of people think this group will stand up and speak for them and that will be enough,” said Connie Goff, Hardin County Citizens spokesperson for Responsible Solar. “I don’t think they realize the importance of all the numbers at this meeting.”
While the group doesn’t “necessarily need speakers,” Goff said support can be shown by attending the meeting.
“We just need them there so elected officials can see the overwhelming number of people in Hardin County who don’t want industrial solar power in this county,” said Goff, who applied. for a seat at the Hardin tax court.
Hardin County Planning Director Adam King said his department was preparing for a packed tax courtroom.
“We are expecting a large crowd and therefore use the third floor tax court room and the third floor conference room will also be set up as an overflow room with a live stream,” he said.
The hearing is the second time that ibV and its Rhudes Creek Solar Project has appeared before the panel.
In June, the commission approved the rezoning of the property – 1,072 acres along the Hardinsburg, South Black Branch and Hansborough roads in southwest Cecilia – from Rural Residential (R2) to Agricole (A1).
A subsequent conditional use permit was refused in a 3-1 vote by the planning committee.
Landowners Clayton, Geraldine and Kerby Gray and Eugene and Dorothy Hill joined ibV in applications for zoning changes and conditional use permits.
They also joined a lawsuit, which sent the decision back to the town planning commission for rezoning and conditional use permit to be heard by the county planning board. This meeting is January 6.
At today’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, King said that planning commission staff will make a presentation, and then candidates and the opposition will each have 30 minutes for a presentation. Comments and testimonies from the public will also be collected during the meeting.
King said the planning commission can approve or deny the zone change, file the request to conduct a site visit, or request more information.
Robin Saiz, vice president of business development at ibV, said he hopes the results of tonight’s meeting will be the same as the first time regarding zone changes.
“I can’t talk about the other projects here, but I can talk about our project,” he said. “We have a power purchase agreement with a lessee, so it’s not a prospect or a piece of cake in the sky, we have a project that we’re trying to move forward with and do it the right way with federal, state and local, county level and doing it responsibly, which is how the system is set up for us. “
Saiz, who attended the briefing held by the opposition group last week, said the crowd “tells me people want to know more” about solar power.
“One of the central themes I have heard tonight is that we are taking good farmland out of production to build solar panels,” he said Thursday. “We’re looking at 800 to 900 acres that we’re building on here. Well the good news is that in 2021 and in the future you can have both. You can build a solar project and continue to do agro-voltaics.
Saiz says his company plans to graze sheep, an underutilized market in this region, and to combat soil erosion, the company will plant seed mixes that will attract pollinators, such as bees and bees. butterflies.
“There is so much that you can grow food and agriculture at the same time as you grow solar power. “
Overall, he says his company’s project is “good for the environment” and “good for the community” because he uses “a $ 100 million investment of his own money.”
“We’re not overloading the system at all,” he said.
The project will also support 250 to 350 temporary construction jobs that will bring 12 to 15 million dollars to the local economy.
At last week’s briefing, Hardin County Deputy Executive Judge Daniel London said the county had received many comments on the matter.
“Our planning and zoning manager, Adam King, does a great job sifting through this and finding the right answers for both parties and I think, as I told the opposition we have the right ones. people in place to make those decisions, ”he said. .
This includes residents appointed to the planning and zoning commission and the adjustment council, London said.
“From top to bottom, I think everyone should remember that those who serve in the county government also live here and have a vested interest in the look and makeup of our community,” he said. .
Because the county’s comprehensive plan doesn’t allow or deny anything specific, it’s up to the planning commission to strike a balance for everyone involved, which is difficult to do, London said.
“I think the crux of all this that needs to be taken into account are individual rights,” he said. “We are a community – whether we are talking about a mask mandate or restrictions on gun rights – at our heart we are individualists. We are very proud of the rights of the individual and it is about which rights have the most power: my right to do whatever I want with my land or my right to see nothing? “
Saiz agreed that the rights of landowners are a major concern.
“We have negotiated with some very good landowners that we are going to build this project on their land and they are also important,” he said. “It allows them to have a diversified income that allows them to keep this farm.
Clayton Gray has been a farmer for over 50 years, Saiz said.
“The income he will get from our solar lease as well as what he will continue to cultivate will allow him to keep this farm in his family for many generations to come and he deserves to have that right.”
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.