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WITT: Some further thoughts on solar farms

On Dec. 4, the Clark Coalition, which describes itself as “an organization dedicated to promoting smart-growth, sustainable economic development and government transparency in Winchester-Clark County,” made public a letter addressed to local elected officials and the planning Ccmmission, a letter which succinctly expresses the concerns of a great many citizens of this county regarding the ongoing process of establishing rules and regulations relating to the possible construction of solar farms here.

Some of the information and points made in that letter will be repeated herein.

Apparently the planning commission, at its last meeting, voted to form a committee of itself with the purpose of “drafting an industrial solar ordinance.” If that is the correct account and intent of the vote, it seems obvious that a decision has already been made that such an ordinance is either required or necessary and that is certainly not a judgment that should be foreclosed. It would seem that a more logical goal of the committee would be to determine if such an ordinance is necessary.

In fact, the whole process thus far regarding local solar farms has been suspiciously clouded, with the early contacts made to local officials and the lack of public exposure at the very early stages, with the hasty formation of a committee to investigate the issue, with the admonition to that committee that it was formed to draft an ordinance even without the necessity of such an ordinance being established, with the disbanding of the committee after only one meeting and now with the quick formation of another committee which, allegedly, will be formulating an ordinance without any public input or advice.

Additionally, this latest committee is supposedly tasked to draft this ordinance within the space of one week and three meetings, all without public involvement.

The letter asks a very germane question: “Why the need for such urgency?”

This question has been asked before and has never been answered. Even though the initial contacts from industry interests occurred very early this year and the span of a year would not normally seem to be “rushing” the effort, the flurry of recent activity — and the numerous missteps therein — strongly suggests something is going on that shouldn’t be.

Call it paranoia, but before attaching that label, answer the questions and allow some transparency.

A number of counties in Kentucky have already created similar ordinances. Those ordinances not only need to be studied, but they raise another question. Why is there so much activity in this state to obtain so many ordinances?

As to other questions, it is reasonable to ask how the county might be advantaged through taxes on these farms. Or will the promoters ask for and receive generous tax write-offs. The promoters have already admitted that a very modest number of people will be employed once a solar farm is constructed and the experience of East Kentucky Power should bear out that admission.

The first public meeting held on this issue drew more than 300 people, despite restrictions on large gatherings during the pandemic, and a petition to slow this process garnered more than 3,000 signatures in a very short period of time. So it’s obvious that the residents here are interested and possibly concerned about what is happening with this issue and process.

It is absolutely crucial that the necessity of a solar farm ordinance be delayed until such time as the passing of the pandemic allows the gathering of interested individuals and the careful consideration of the exigency of having solar farms here.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.