Supervisors will consider the county’s first rezoning application associated with a potential solar farm project next week.
James and Jean Beall and Springbrook Farm LLC representative Tina Weaver have applied to rezone approximately 91.89 acres beside Yoder’s Country Market to limited industrial M1. The property is currently split zoned agriculture A1 and general business B1. The rezoning is necessary to accommodate the county’s zoning ordinance which requires solar projects to be located on M1 zoned property. Should the rezoning be approved, the applicants plan to submit a zoning text amendment application and a special use permit (SUP) application to develop a commercial solar energy facility on the property.
The potential solar project has been discussed for several months with developer Yarotek having presented information to both the planning commission and the board of supervisors. If developed, the project would tie into the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) electrical grid and would be 12-15 megawatts to meet their limitations.
A change in the county’s minimum setback restrictions would be necessary to make the project feasible, which is where the zoning text amendment comes in. The applicants would request the ordinance be amended to allow for setbacks of just 100 feet, compared to the 300 feet in the ordinance. A subcommittee of the planning commission has already met and discussed the potential change, agreeing that amending the ordinance to include a setback of 100-300 feet would be more appropriate. Committee chair Fay Utz said the original setback was written with a large solar project in mind, not a smaller one like the one being applied for.
Other requirements in the ordinance would be upheld including a tree buffer and fencing, as well as returning the land to 100% of its previous state once the project is decommissioned in 25 years.
If ultimately approved and built, the project could generate local revenue. In addition to the rollback taxes the owners will have to pay when taking the property out of land use, industrial parcels are taxed at a higher rate. Also, last year the Virginia General Assembly passed a law allowing localities to negotiate revenue-sharing agreements with solar develops so that the developer makes yearly payments per megawatt of energy installed. The law has resulted in significant revenue for counties throughout the state. The revenue would basically be in the form of an annual tax on the project and has been estimated to be approximately $1,400 per megawatt annually for Madison County.
The rezoning application will be the subject of a joint public hearing of the planning commission and board of supervisors Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. at 414 N. Main Street, Madison.
Also on the agenda for joint public hearings during the same meeting are two SUP applications for garages operating in the county. Both William Robbins of Bill’s Auto Repair & Towing, Inc. on Seville Road and Laura and Shawn Fields of Fieldstone Auto, LLC on Hurt Hollow Road have applied for SUPs to continue operating their businesses. The zoning office received complaints regarding both businesses, the latter regarding the business being operated on a private road. County planner Ligon Webb said the office is working with both businesses and some small changes to both will be necessary to meet zoning requirements for a commercial garage, the largest of which will be the installation of a restroom.