The Page County Planning Commission, with consultants paid for by tax dollars, spent almost a year tailoring a solar ordinance for Page County. A good ordinance was crafted that protected our unique agricultural land, waterways, historical and natural resources, required adequate screening and included a size limit of 200 acres.
Despite overwhelming support from the Planning Commission and from the public, the Board of Supervisors did not accept this good ordinance. Instead, they created a subcommittee to re-write it.
We’ve been following the process closely to advocate for the protections that were, and still are, supported by the community.
Here is what we think should be in the ordinance approved by the Page County Board of Supervisors and why each component is important for Page County.
Maximum of 200 acres ‘coverage area’ inside the security fence protecting the panels and no more than 65% of a site covered by panels.
Page County is a small, rural and beautiful county. A project size maximum of 200 acres protects our two main economic drivers of agriculture and tourism. 200 acres is easier to screen from Shenandoah National Park viewsheds and the Park brings in thousands of dollars annually to Page County. No more than 65% of any solar site covered by panels means at least 35% of solar site must be used for setbacks, screening, buffer areas, etc.
Facilities shall be located outside of forested areas. Facilities shall not be located within ¼ mile of US Hwy 340 and Hwy 211 & Business Hwy 340 & Business Hwy 211 except where natural topography shields the entire facility from view.
Our forests are a valuable part of a healthy ecological system and need to be protected. Visitors to the county come in on Highways 340 and 211. We need to protect our entry corridors to support tourism, one of our two main economic drivers.
Facilities must be at least 1 mile from a town boundary, outside the primary & secondary service areas around a town as delineated in the comprehensive plan & not adjacent to residential districts or subdivisions.
Allowing industrial-size solar developments next to towns or residential area is not supported by the comprehensive plan. The service areas are set aside for future expansion of the towns and large utility scale solar would block that future development.
No facility shall be located within 2 miles of another facility unless the combined acreage is 200 acres or less.
This closes a potential loophole around the 200 acre project maximum that protects the county’s two main economic drivers of agriculture and tourism.
Facilities shall be located within 1 mile of electric transmission lines.
This ensures minimal need for new transmission lines in the county and makes for more efficient solar facilities.
Facilities shall minimize or avoid locating on farmland with soils categorized as Prime Farmland & Farmland of Statewide Importance. No site shall have more than 50% of soils identified as such.
By protecting the most productive soils, we protect the future of agriculture as an industry. Our prime soils are a valuable asset to the county and <em>should not be taken up by industrial solar developments. </em>
Facilities shall not be located within 200 feet of historic & cultural resources as defined & listed in the comprehensive plan.
The Shenandoah Valley and Page County are well-known for their history and culture, main reasons tourists come here. We need to protect our historical and cultural resources.
Native trees shall be used for screening and native grasses, including pollinator-friendly species, shall be used for groundcover.
Insects play an important role in sustaining agricultural crops, but their numbers are in decline. By planting native and pollinator-friendly species on the entire site, we are helping local birds, insects, mammals and our local farms.