Nov. 23, 2020
The Edgefield County Planning Commission meeting in the County Council chambers on Thursday, November 12, 2020 reached standing room only mostly because of two items on the agenda. The items of concern were the Annison Pointe subdivision located at the intersection of Currytown Road and Mealing Road and a land development application by Caddis Solar.
These two agenda items brought the majority of the people attending the meeting who were there in opposition to the proposals. Those attending had to make the decision between sitting in close quarters during a pandemic and providing support for their positions on the decisions being made at the meeting.
The developers for Annison Pointe, Dave and Stewart Thompson, were represented by their lawyer who informed the Planning Commission they had no choice but to approve the project. Frank Gabriel voiced the concern that there were ethical concerns regarding the decision of the planned subdivision. Gabriel made the point that there is the law and there are ethics.
The developers of Annison Pointe had made changes to their original proposal that brought them into compliance to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
James Oliver, District 5, Planning Commission member, made the point during the meeting that having a Land Maintenance Ordinance would have given the Planning Commission guidance and grounds to vote against Annison Pointe.
Oliver also stated that since the Land Maintenance Ordinance postponement, the floodgates of development have opened. He predicted there were multiple subdivision development proposals coming in the next few months and the commission might as well go ahead and vote to approve them all now because it was inevitable that they would be allowed under the current law. “We put on hold the LMO (Land Maintenance Ordinance); we never put on hold anything else,” said Oliver. Vice Chair Brett McNeill made the point that the commission serves as a review board to determine if an action is legal.
Gabriel and Oliver voted against the Annison Pointe subdivision and James Fab Burt -Chairperson, District 1, Tracy Hamilton, District 3, and Bret McNeil -Vice Chairperson, Member At Large voted for the project.
The second item that generated interests among those attending the overcrowded meeting was a proposal by Caddis Solar LLC to build a solar farm. As with the Annison Pointe subdivision, there was strong opposition to the project from the people in close quarters speaking at the meeting.
The solar farm would include 217,000 modules in vertical rows distanced 8-10 feet apart on the 1,220.98 acres. Concerns from the public ranged from the location of a graveyard on the proposed solar project, to its environmental impact on water and wildlife, to its impact on how the area will look, to the options of recycling the solar panels once they no longer operate. One attendee made the point that clearing 1200 acres of forest and mass grading was a Green Factory, not a green farm. The future land use category within the Comprehensive plan for the solar farm is designated Rural/Agricultural.
Caddis had secured bond agreements and other commitments that would cover the cost of the solar panels’ removal in the future. Caddis also said they would build a fence and provide a vegetative landscape buffer and would meet the setback, height, and coverage requirements. The county administrator said that the solar farm would provide over a $112,000 a year in revenue through fees in lieu of taxes for the county government and the school district.
The Caddis proposal was continued. That decision allows Caddis’ to try to work with the surrounding land owners to develop a plan that will address their concerns before returning to the Planning Commission seeking approval.
In other business, four tree houses were approved to be built on ten acres, facility renovations for T & W Afterschool Program (Edgefield County, Johnston mailing address) were approved, the Annslee Cove subdivision application was withdrawn, and Corner Boat Storage (on Woodlawn Rd. near Sportsman’s Corner) was approved.