VERONA — Stymied by the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, 19 property owners and Augusta Solar LLC are taking their case to court.
The plaintiffs are seeking to overturn the board’s May 22 decision to deny their request for a special-use permit to see a solar farm built on 44 parcels in the Lyndhurst and Stuarts Draft areas. Augusta County’s attorney, James Benkahla, said Wednesday the county was served with an appeal filed last week in Augusta County Circuit Court alleging the board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying the permit.
The county has 21 days to file a response to the appeal.
The much-debated proposal failed on a 4-3 vote, with Supervisor Gerald Garber, the board’s chairman, joining Supervisors Carolyn Bragg, Wendell Coleman and Michael Shull opposing the request.
Bragg, in whose South River District the proposed project would have been located, made the motion to deny, citing the county’s comprehensive plan.
She argued that the planned 125-megawatt solar farm doesn’t fit into what county policymakers and planners have been working toward for decades for the area, which has been designated in the comp plan as the site for future commercial and industrial development.
The property owners, however, said the comp plan is only a guide and shouldn’t override the land’s current zoning, which is general agriculture.
On Feb. 12, the Augusta County Planning Commission, on a 5-2 vote, agreed that the proposal complied, in all or in part, with the comprehensive plan. The panel, which is an appointed advisory body, was not asked to make a recommendation on the solar farm proposal.
When the Board of Supervisors met June 12, attorney Thomas Kleine, counsel for the landowners and Community Energy Solar, parent company of Augusta Solar LLC, formally asked the board to reconsider its decision. Although supervisors took no action on the request, the board agreed to take another look at the county’s solar farm ordinance.
Had the proposal been approved, the solar farm would have been Augusta County’s first.
Initially, solar panels would have been installed on about 1,000 acres. That was reduced to about 840 acres in a revised plan that the supervisors voted on after setbacks were added and other revisions made to address concerns raised by county officials and neighboring property owners, according to Tom Anderson, development director for Community Energy Solar.
In the suit, the plaintiffs contend that among other allegations the board did not overrule the Planning Commission’s finding that their application was in substantial compliance with the comp plan or that it failed to satisfy any requirement of the county’s solar ordinance.