BZA approves solar panel special exception with conditions
Pulaski County Board of Zoning Appeals members again listened to the public in regards to the special exception application for a proposed solar panel project during a special meeting Monday evening.
The meeting that lasted three hours and 40 minutes started with public comment and then rebuttals from those representing the proposed Mammoth Solar project. The Pulaski County Highway Department meeting room was full, in accordance to social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions, while others from the public gathered outside and on Zoom.
Board president Derrick Stalbaum warned those who wanted to speak that the comments must be focused on new and factual information that pertains only to environmental impact, health concerns, ecology and farmland values. The meeting was a continuation of the public hearing held on July 27. At that time the BZA also held a meeting and tabled the special exception as they wanted more information.
The project is estimated to create energy that could potentially serve 80,000 people. It could involve 7,000 acres with about 4,300 acres housing panels. The proposed project is an estimated investment of more than $500 million and is supported by two developers, Clean Air Generation LLC and Doral, an Israeli company.
The county currently has zoning regulations for solar panels. Those regulations have been in place since December but discussion regarding the regulations began when wind turbines were discussed in 2018.
Concerns of the public again included what was said at the previous meeting such as losing the value of their property and home, the decibel and radiation levels being harmful, and that there is a lack of information in regards to such a large project. Several members of the public asked if first responders will be trained which was a concern during the previous meeting.
Some of the public were in favor of the project and stated the opposite of the concerns. A few of the people in favor of the project did not live in Pulaski County but have knowledge regarding solar panels and radiation although not on large-scale projects.
Before the BZA board began to discuss whether the special exception meets the finding of facts, the board reviewed conditions that could be approved with the special exception. The seven conditions and three commitments were created after listening to the concerns of the public.
After the board reviewed the further considerations of the finding of facts, they unanimously approved the special exception with the conditions and commitments.
Stalbaum informed those in the public that if the special exception is approved it does not mean a permit will be issued.