Not all the facts presented when criticism raised over solar farm opposition

The following is in response to a Salisbury Daily Times editorial published May 13 titled “What do Somerset County residents stand in favor of?”

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I’m one of your so-called “protesters” concerning the solar farm on Plantation Road in Crisfield. Sir or madam whoever is responsible for this editorial, you do not have ALL the facts in this case.

 
I purchased property in the vicinity of this farm close to 40 years ago. Although the property where the proposed solar farm will be constructed was used for farming, it was NOT zoned agricultural but zoned Residential 2, where my property across the street is zoned Residential 1. The difference between the two is simply more homes can be placed on R-2 zoned land versus R-1. The zoning on this property has never been changed.

 
Zoning laws are created to protect our property and in this case, it did not. They are placing a solar farm which is considered “industrial” in a residential neighborhood on residentially zoned property. This was our first protest — zoning laws not being followed.

 
The county and the company “OneEnergy Renewable” have been working on this project for 3 years. The residents in close proximity of this proposed solar farm only became aware of this a few short months ago. So we have every right to pursue protection of our property. And that is what we have been doing. Not because, as you say, we are afraid of change!
We have all worked hard to get the homes we have and we continue to work hard on our homes. Our concerns would be the concerns of anyone who has an investment in their home. So I believe, to not want an eyesore in our front yard or OUR backyard would be a natural thing to oppose.

 
If you had come to the PSC hearing back in February, the monthly Planning Commission meeting in Princess Anne in March and then the latest community meeting in May you would be aware of our concerns:
• property values,
• our safety,
• the noise,
• the glare,
• fire,
• the close proximity to the airport,
• acceptable buffering & maintaining of the buffer,
• mosquito control,
• flooding the farm and its effects on the residents,
• the effect on birds and animals who live here,
• decommissioning.

As far as jobs being brought to Somerset County, you haven’t done your homework here either. Possibly 50 jobs will be available during construction and supposedly they will be local. Once construction is over, the solar farm is pretty much on its own. And those 50 no longer will have a job. But this small community will be seeing a solar farm for the next 20 plus years. This was our second protest — buffering of the solar farm.

 
A hearing was held on April 6, 2016 in Baltimore at the PSC (Public Service Commission) where OneEnergy Renewable received their CPCN (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) which is their approval to move forward. Here’s one of the excerpts from this hearing concerning the buffering.

 
On page 89 of the PSC hearing documents of April 6th the Commission states the following conditions to protect residential views: it states “shall be fully buffered from the view of local residences by planting of appropriate trees and shrubs….residential view will preserve property values and permit owners the full enjoyment of their property (my notation: the definition of fully…Adverb, completely or entirely; to the furthest extent).

 
We initially started out by trying to stop the solar farm; our intent was not to stop solar farms in Somerset County, but to stop it in our residential neighborhood of over 50 homes. We actually collected over 600 signature letters against the solar farm being placed in zoned residential property and/or asking for appropriate buffering if the solar farm became a reality. These letters were sent to the PSC and included in this hearing as evidence.

 
The Community Meeting that was held on May 5, 2016 in Princess Anne was ordered by Judge Ryan C. McLean a Public Utility Law Judge to get the input from the community. OneEnergy Renewables scheduled this meeting in Princess Anne.

 
The meeting was about buffering and what the community wanted. The answer is plain and simple “We want it fully buffered just as mentioned in the Hearing documents”. We do not want to see this solar farm. Some homes on this road will see this eyesore from their front yards; others will see it from their backyards. Not to mention the people who travel this road on a daily basis whether driving, walking, cycling, jogging and then during the spring, summer and fall months those people travel this road who vacation at Janes Island State Park.

 
The main gate is located directly in front of a resident’s home, in fact directly across from his driveway. The construction on Plantation Road will be for 3-5 months. And during the time of year when most of us are outside enjoying our homes.

 
According to the PSC hearing documents of April 6th on pages 10 and 25 it is stated: 40 cars, pickup trucks and equipment will be added to the already daily existing traffic, along with 100-200 truckloads over the entire period while it is being built. Do you think this fair to this resident who pays property taxes along with county taxes to Somerset County? Neither OneEnergy nor our county thought of this family. In fact, no one in this residential neighborhood was thought of when this was initiated 3 years ago.

 
The following is input from this Community Meeting of May 5, 2016:
• The property owners around the proximity of this “farm” want it fully buffered with mature plantings which also includes the buffering of the main gate.
• The main gate should be moved away from the front of any residence.
• Maintenance of this vegetation as long as a solar panel farm is on Plantation Road.
• If the buffering has been properly accomplished, our hopes are that our property values may not be affected.

The buffering that OneEnergy offered for this solar farm at this meeting was not acceptable and did not comply with the PSC hearing’s concerning it to be fully buffered.

You did not have all the facts. I think your editorial was one sided, definitely a negative report against the people of Somerset County. Your last sentence was uncalled for where you suggested we move to Northampton County, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Perhaps you should write an editorial on how the county government in Somerset is being run without taking their constituents (taxpayers) into consideration instead of writing about the people who oppose the county’s decisions that adversely affects them.

—Ms. Atkins lives in Crisfield.

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