The Henry County Board of Supervisors will ask the Planning Commission to start the process of amending its solar ordinance to limit the amount of land that can be used for solar operations.
The cap would be in addition to existing restrictions such as the 2.5 percent density requirement.
County Attorney George Lyle said the move would essentially keep the solar ordinance as it is, but limit the total number of projects and acreage.
“So, after staff looked at how other localities are doing it, the staff recommendation is that there be a one percent cap, if the board desires to have a cap, based on the one percent total land mass of Henry County,” he said.
In Henry County, not counting water surfaces there is approximately 244,000 acres. Lyle said one percent of that is about 2,400 acres.
“Currently in Henry County, we have 1,200 acres of solar panels either constructed or under construction. As you know, we have projects pending and you never know until they submit their final site plan of how they’re going to use their land, but it’s estimated that there’s approximately 600 acres of panels under proposal being considered,” he said.
The cap would be in addition to the preexisting restrictions in the ordinance, including the 2.5 percent density requirement.
The board approved the proposal in a 5-1 vote. Garrett Dillard, of the Iriswood District, was the lone member who voted against the measure.
Dillard said in his mind, this is putting a cap on top of a cap.
“Because that one percent reduces it, then you really don’t have a 2.5 percent ordinance,” Dillard said. “You have a 2.5 percent ordinance until you get to one percent of your land use, and you may have hundreds of miles of acreage, but you can’t use it because the one percent has come into effect.”
Tommy Slaughter, of the Reed Creek District, said the board is doing what all the other counties have done.
“Franklin County kept theirs a lot less than that. We’re just saying ‘this is all we want. We don’t want any more of our land covered up,’” Slaughter said.
Joe Bryant, of the Collinsville District, said he thinks a cap would add safety to the locality.
“I don’t want us to be considered the solar capital of the country in the south part,” Bryant said. “I’m not not for having solar companies here, but in moderation.”
Dillard said the board has talked with a lot of departments and organizations about how it wishes it could give them more money.
“I see solar as those opportunities to take care of some of those things. We want to better reward folk and people who are coming in and offering us $1.25 million upfront, $900,000 upfront, plus the tax money, and those are ways that we can really pat folk on the back and give them a little something to go with it versus just the conversation,” he said.
In other matters, the board:
*Approved allowing Lyle to petition the Henry County Circuit Court to forgo a special election to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry on July 1.
*Approved the proposed Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) six-year road plan.
*Appropriated the fiscal year 2023-2024 county budget.
*Awarded a $103,211 contract to Smith Turf & Irrigation for ground maintenance equipment to be used primarily at the Smith River Sports Complex.
*Approved a transfer appropriation of $130,138 to the Fieldale Heritage project from the Smith River Small Towns project and the Small Grants cost center. The funds will be used to complete the project’s architectural and engineering services.
*Approved $250,000 categorical transfers in the Henry County Public Schools budget, including $177,075 from the Administration/Attendance and Health (AAH) category to the Facilities category, and $72,925 from the AAH category to the Operation and Maintenance category. The funds will be used for paving the parking lot at the Center for Community Learning and painting at schools.
*Awarded a $207,503 contract to Excel Truck Group for the purchase of a knuckle boom-style truck for the Refuse Department.
*Approved an additional appropriation of $10,868 in Asset Forfeiture Funds to pay for training for the Sheriff’s Office.
*Approved an additional appropriation of $18,875,216 from the state’s reimbursements towards the construction of the Adult Detention Center, and $639,784 of unexpected construction funds to pay the Series 2019B Bonds.
*Approved an application to rezone 1.62-acres of the Ridgeway District from Suburban Residential District to Agricultural District.
*Appointed Felita Claybrooks and Greg Peitz to the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board.
*Appointed Scott Prillaman and Melvin Brown Jr. to the Henry County Parks & Recreation Board.
*Appointed Darrell Jones to the Community Policy and Management Team.
*Appointed Gracie Agnew to the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.
*Appointed Willie Scales and Andrea Robertson to the Henry-Martinsville Social Services Board.
*Appointed Robert Haley to the Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) Board.
*Appointed Eric Hairston to the Piedmont Community Services (PCS) Board.
*Appointed Alisha Hill to the Southside Community Action Board.