A solar farm meeting was held yesterday and about 30 residents of Greene County showed up at the courthouse, with some attending on Zoom.
Lyn Ashburn, who assists and works in Research and Special projects with Greene County, hosted the meeting and said her purpose and main focus for the meeting was to receive the public’s input. In 2015, when she first made the regulations for solar farms, she stated her intent was to protect family farms and that her job wasn’t necessarily to consider what the financial impact would be on property owners or solar companies.
Ashburn suggested maybe protecting agricultural land in the county should be considered as part of regulations for solar. She asked the public what they felt needed to be protected or even encouraged this time around in the regulations. She was hoping to get some feedback and added she wants to have more meetings, but needs a lot of people to attend with a lot of opinions.
Ashburn gave the residents who attended get the opportunity to speak and ask any questions. None spoke up at first, but after some silence a resident shared she felt Greene County should be focused on agriculture, starting with prime agricultural land. She stated with downtown being renovated and lots of tourism, solar farms will take away from the views and tourism coming in. With other solar companies looking to acquire land, she and others feel the county needs to stand ground and protect farm land.
Resident Sandy Moore and others agreed that the moratorium should be extended as she doesn’t believe the county has a proper plan or any structure in place, but some might disagree as that could be a potential law suit from Silicon Ranch, who’s already begun their project. Moore said the aesthetics needed to be considered in the regulations and that solar farms are going to ruin the beautiful view of the Smokey Mountains.
Ashburn expressed she can only do what the state allows, and whatever she proposes for the regulations will have to be justified. Regarding aesthetics, other than buffering there’s not much she can do without historical zoning in the district.