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Secret meetings

By Staff | Jun 26, 2020

In February of this year, three members of the Jefferson County Planning Commission and staff held a meeting, from which the public was barred, with a local lobbyist and an out-of-state developer of commercial solar facilities controlled by a New York Investment fund. After this meeting and three other secret meetings, this group of three adopted an amendment to the County Zoning Ordinance, which allows commercial solar energy facilities in more than 75 percent of the county as a principal use. Meaning you cannot oppose it.

There are no notes or recordings of the meetings. The staff has refused to release the documents or other writings the group reviewed. These secret meetings violated the state open meeting law and the county’s policy on open meetings.

A commercial solar energy facility can include solar panels, transformers, storagebatteries, generators, substations, reflecting mirrors and security fences. The draft has no density or height limits. State law mandates an amendment must be consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan. In a memo dated July 9, 2019, the county zoning administrator advised each member of the Planning Commission that the County Comprehensive Plan would allow nonagricultural commercial use by the Conditional Use Permit process in the Rural Zone. A solar energy facility is a commercial activity, and must process as a conditional use and not a principal use as in the drafted amendment. Accordingly, the amendment violates state law. The farmer’s letter requested a text change in the zoning ordinance and a conditional use for a solar facility in the rural zone.

Why hold secret meetings? Why knowingly draft an amendment which violates state law?

Doug Rockwell, of Charles Town