Culpeper planners deny big solar project
In a double unanimous vote on Jan. 11, the Culpeper County Planning Commission denied a new conditional use permit application submitted by a previously denied solar project set for Stevensburg.
A er being denied in May 2021, Maroon Solar, LLC introduced a revised plan for its utility-scale solar facility.
One of the most prominent changes to the application is the acreage of the project.
Previously, in an application reviewed and denied in May 2021, Maroon sought to construct and operate the 149 MW project on approximately 1,792.08 acres, occupying approximately 970 acres of panel area.
Recently sought and now not recommended by the commission included approximately 1,879 acres, occupying approximately 671 acres of panel area.
The property is located along and between Route 617 (Raccoon Ford Road) and Route 658 (Mt. Pony Road) in the Stevensburg Magisterial District
ith a recommendation of denial from the commission, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors will decide at a later date whether the project’s location, character, and extent of the proposed project is in accordance with the County’s adopted comprehensive plan.
Within the rst motion for denial, Commissioner Katie Reames described the grounds for denial as, “not in compliance with Code Section 15.2223 as the general location or approximate location, character and extent thereof is substantially not in accord with the adopted Comprehensive Plan.”
A er passing with a 7 to 0, Reames again made a motion to deny the application based upon, “Article 17, conditional uses as it does show signi cant impacts that will adversely a ect the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the proposed use…also does show significant potential impacts as stated in 17-1-1.2 to be detrimental to the public welfare to property or improvement in the neighborhood.”
Reames clari ed her motion to say the signi cant impacts included but not limited to tra c management, stormwater management and erosion and sediment issues.
It again passed with a 7 to 0 vote. Prior to voting, the commission heard from countless citizens and organizations with their objections to the project, including the Piedmont Environmental Council.
“PEC is an advocate for solar energy, especially distributed solar and roo op solar,” said PEC Land Use Field Representative for Culpeper County Sarah Parmelee. “We are deeply concerned that the Maroon solar project, in its current form, will have a profound and lasting negative impact on the Stevensburg area.”
In March 2021, the commission voted 7-2 that the applicant’s utility- scale solar energy generation facility is not a feature presently shown on the County’s Comprehensive Plan, but also that its location, character and extent are not substantially in accord with the comprehensive plan, citing three reasons: environmental and future land use.
Despite Maroon appealing the commission’s recommendation, The supervisors headed the commission’s advice and denied the application in May 2021.
Since the project was initially proposed in 2020, Maroon has taken into account comments from previous meetings and made several design changes.
Those changes include, according to their permit application, are:
► Decreased the total improved acreage from 970 acres to 671 acres.
► Reduced the construction duration from over three years to between 18 and 24 months.
► Increased the minimum width of all vegetative buffers to at least 100 feet.
► Increased the set back from Algonquin Trail from 1,500 feet to over 3,500 feet.
► Increased the fence line setbacks from all residences within the vicinity of the Project fence line from 1,000 feet to over 1,300 feet, except for one home that belongs to a Project landowner who is a strong supporter and whose home is located 870 feet from the Project fence line.
► Prohibited construction traffic entry at the Mt. Pony Road site access. The entrance off Raccoon Ford Road will be designated as the primary construction and equipment delivery entrance. The entrance off of Mt. Pony Road will only be used for access by operations and maintenance personnel once the Project is operational.
► Relocated the substation further into the middle of the Project so that it is at least 3,000 feet from the nearest residential property.
A new substation. will be constructed on site in order to connect to the existing Remington- Gordonsville transmission line that runs through the southern portion of the site.