The Pittsylvania County Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved a special use permit for Maplewood Solar Tuesday evening, Feb. 12.
The $130 million solar project consists of over 1,500 acres on 22 parcels of land in the Callands-Gretna district about 7 miles northwest of Chatham.
In all, the project could produce up to 120-Megawatts of electricity on up to 1,200 acres.
“This is technology that can be easily removed, that doesn’t change much of the character of the property,” attorney John Puvak, who represented the petition, said.
Patrick Buckley, director of development for Open Road Renewables who is overseeing the project, said after the planning commission meeting on Feb. 5, some of their plans changed.
“Last week it was a productive meeting and we appreciate the support of the planning commission,” Buckley said.
Buckley told the board that after hearing from citizens, a decision was made to relinquish the use of a 20-acre field in close proximity of homes in the area of the intersection of Climax Road and Cooksburg Road.
“An owner that was in possession of piece of property there has an easement on it for access with a pretty expansive view [of the project],” Buckley said.
The project is expected to generate $1.3 million in taxes for Pittsylvania County in the first 10 years, and $2.7 million total over the life of the 40-year project.
Buckley said the company would also like to support the Climax Ruritan Club and the Climax Volunteer Fire Department as well during the project.
Eight members of the Climax community told the board they were in favor of the project.
“Farming is becoming difficult to make a profit and survive. This is a new way to make a profit for the family,” Kevin Owen said.
“Change can be good or bad, but it’s inevitable. I’m here to support the project and ask that you would ask well,” Hank Maxey said.
“This is technology that can lead to new and innovative jobs for Pittsylvania County. I think this is a great thing for our county and community,” Barry Cundiff said.
Dee Owen told the board she and her husband have lived on Climax Road for over 80 years.
“We were living on Climax Road at 9 years old when electricity came to Climax,” Owen said.
Stephen Thornton, who opposed the project at the planning commission also stepped forward and opposed it before the board of zoning appeals.
“I was here last week and still have not heard anything from Maplewood, and we are adjoining landowners. I’m happy to hear setback will be 150 feet, but it will still be visible,” Thornton said.
The board, Buckley, and Puvak came to an agreement that as conditions of the special use permit they would build a 150 foot barrier from the panels to the homes, no panels on 20 acres at the northwest corner of the project at Climax Road and Cooksburg Road, stagger plants in sensitive areas, and respond quickly to electrical complaints and take appropriate action.
The project now moves to be approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia.