When the Jefferson County Commission met on November 30 for the first time since September 7, there were a few high priority items on the agenda and all of the votes were unanimous, even if the discussions were tense (story in The Observer, Dec 2023). The agendas for the next few meetings will likely be more contentious, as the Commission addresses some of the complex issues left unresolved over the past few months.
On the list of open items is zoning for industrial solar facilities. The Commission’s action on that topic at the September 7 meeting left a lot of unanswered questions and the solar zoning ordinance “repeal” has been in limbo since then (story in The Observer, Nov 2023).
The 500-acre Blake solar facility just southeast of Charles Town is the first to begin construction (and the smallest of the four projects that have submitted plans). The project is a bit different from what might have expected based on discussions during the solar zoning amendment process: The land for this project was sold to the developer rather than leased, the soil has been extensively regraded, and the benefits of the construction jobs don’t appear to be very “local” (see photo above).
Going forward, the Commission has some negotiating leverage, as all of the solar projects are likely to be requesting tax abatements. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for substantive discussions about how to manage the county’s growth based more on reality and less on political slogans.By Steve Pearson