Riceboro City Council is delaying approval of a 32-acre passive solar farm planned near the intersection of U.S. Highway 17 and the E.B. Cooper Highway.
Councilman Chris Stacey had several questions about the project at the group’s March meeting, leading Mayor Bill Austin to say that the matter could be “discussed off-line” before the council votes.
“We will call a meeting,” Austin said.
Stacey said he was “not in a hurry” and that the city should get an expert to advise them about solar farms.
Stacey asked if housing values go down near solar farms but this question was not answered. The 32-acre farm is sited on a 775-acre tract owned by M.F. Martin III and will be more than 2,000 feet from any highway or public road.
Power generating solar panels will be on 20 acres of the 32-acre project; the remaining 12 acres will be a buffer of existing hardwood and pine trees surrounding the farm.
According to the application from SoLAmerica 800 solar panels will be installed, each one measuring three feet by six feet and six feet tall. Although depending on sunlight the project will produce electricity five or six hours daily. The plant operates 24 hours a day and produces a noise level of about 40-60 decibels. SoLAmerica says this is slightly louder than normal talking.
Once constructed the solar farm will produce no local jobs except someone to occasionally mow or bush hog the area. The discussion was during the council’s regular March 6 meeting.
In other zoning action the council approved a rezoning and conditional use for Gill Land LLC to use three quarters of an acre off Jones Street to store equipment and materials. An office trailer will be on the site. The company is a contractor for Chemtall/SNF and chose the Jones Street location because it is near the plant.
The council also agreed to a rezoning and conditional use requested by the city itself. The 13 acres along U.S. Highway 17 will be part of the Community Action Agency complex that will house public services like food service and early childhood education for residents. A small subdivision is also included.
John McIver, longtime mayor of Riceboro and former county commission chairman asked who would own the subdivision planned on government property. Austin said that was still in a pre-planning phase. Austin said all residents will be invited to public planning sessions dealing with the project.
McIver said, “It sounds strange to me . . . if it’s built, who’s going to own it?”
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