County Zoning Panel Approves Solar Request

By Chuck Vipperman

Southside Correspondent

Axton Solar now has permission to expand Pittsylvania County’s largest solar farm.  But their power generation numbers will remain the same.

The County’s Board of Zoning Appeals Monday approved a Special Use Permit covering 225.58 acres along Sugar Barbour Road and Mosco Road in the Tunstall Election District. It was a year ago when the BZA approved a permit for 1,359.74 acres for Axton Solar.  Company spokesman Trey Lopez says it turned out that not all of the land was suitable for the placement of solar panels.

“We under-estimated how many wetlands areas there are in several of the parcels we originally had approved,” Lopez told the BZA. “That caused us to come out and source new land.”

A newly-revised section of the Pittsylvania County Code requires new Utility Scale Energy Facilities to be at least five miles from another approved project. The new parcels fall within that guideline. The proposed project will cross into Henry County, creating a total project area of 3,509.76 acres between the two counties.

The project also needs approval from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Lopez says adding the new land will allow them to avoid sensitive wetlands while still being able to generate the amount of power they originally planned.

“It’ll make permitting a lot easier with DEQ,” Lopez explained.

The solar panels will generate power for a 200-megawatt utility scale solar energy facility which connects to the Appalachian Power grid through an interconnection to an existing 138 kV overhead transmission line.

The recently-updated Pittsylvania County Zoning Ordinance requires a site plan and landscape plan to be submitted and approved before permits are issued to ensure compliance with setback and vegetative screening requirements. Axton Solar will also have to submit an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan and Stormwater Plan to the Community Development Department and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to ensure that all stormwater and erosion and sediment control regulations are being met.

The BZA this week also approved a Special Use Permit request from Harry Parks for a single-wide mobile home. It’ll go on 1.27 acres of land at 513 Hickory Road in the Banister Election District. The property is currently vacant. All applicable setback requirements and Building Code regulations will have to be met before the mobile home could be placed on the property.

The BZA also granted a Special Use Permit for the Olde Dominion Agricultural Foundation to open at campground. The property where the Olde Dominion Agricultural Center is located is zoned A-1, Agricultural.

According to their application, the Center hosts a variety of events that draw crowds from all over the East Coast. The nature of those events, combined with a lack of hotel rooms in the immediate area, make camping an attractive option for some guests. Plans for the campground include 36 spaces with camping amenities.

The BZA unanimously approved the permit.  The Center will still need a permit from the Virginia Department of Health before it can open.

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