These are exciting times for Augusta County—on November 1, under the direction of the Board of Supervisors, Augusta County launched its Comprehensive Plan Community Meetings. This plan, required by the state, sets forth the vision for how the county will grow and develop in the next 20 years. As Supervisor Mike Shull said,
Your active participation in creating this Comprehensive Plan will directly influence Augusta County’s course over the next 20 years.
I know all too well how important—and how time consuming—this process is because I was part of the lead committee the last time the county produced a new comp plan (2007). I also know that the comp plan is a vision and, once complete, then the county rules (ordinances) are tweaked to make sure that the vision of the people becomes a reality (see my 2020 article Superheroes Need Good Sidekicks).
Which is why it is so baffling that the county would advertise to dramatically change its ordinance relating to solar energy at the very moment that they are soliciting citizen input on all aspects affecting quality of life in the county. Over the last several years, as solar has emerged as a new land use, the county has asked citizens to participate in surveys, meetings, and committees to develop the county’s comp plan language and ordinance for solar. As a result, Augusta’s solar ordinance is one of the most comprehensive in the state, addressing storm water management, vegetative buffering, visual impacts, and decommissioning, and has worked well with the current comp plan language. Several solar projects with complementary agriculture have been approved. Many more have been turned down. (See this page with Alliance solar recommendations and our chart tracking projects Valley-wide.)
It makes no sense to change an ordinance that is working and follows the comp plan to something that does not match the comp plan and might or might not match the pending citizen input regarding solar development within Augusta.
Please ask the county not to put the cart before the horse.
The county needs to remove any solar ordinance amendments from consideration until they have heard from the people about their vision for the next 20 years regarding all aspects of life in the county, including solar, so that a good comp plan incorporating their desires can be completed. Then, and only then, should the county begin its work on tweaking the ordinances to ensure that the people’s vision becomes reality.
Here’s what you can do:
Participate in Comp Plan Revision
2. Attend both the upcoming public hearings on this matter and ask the Planning Commission (Tuesday, November 14, 7pm) and the Board of Supervisors (Wednesday, December 13, 7pm) to remove the solar ordinance revisions from consideration until public input has been received through the comprehensive planning process and the new plan is in place.
3. Attend any or all of the remaining Comp Plan Meetings (November 15, 16, 27 and NEW! November 29 virtual meetings for those who could not attend in-person or prefer to engage virtually). Let the planners working on the comp plan know your thoughts about solar as well as anything else that will affect the quality of life in our wonderful county for the next 20 years. Your opinion matters!