EUREKA — The Woodford County Board readdressed on Tuesday the by-now familiar request by Georgia-based SolAmerica Energy to construct a solar-power generating facility next to a Eureka residential neighborhood. The approach varied slightly this time, but the result remained the same:
No solar farm.
Board member Duane Kingdon made the motion to accept the Zoning Board's recommendation and approve a special exception that would allow the construction and operation of a 2-megawatt solar farm on a 53-acre tract of land that abuts the Lakeview Acres subdivision. Board member Pete Stried seconded the motion, and at that point the issue was farther along in the process than it had been in two previous tries in earlier meetings.
The motion then failed 10-2, with Kingdon and Stried casting the only votes in support.
Kingdon, who is chairman of the board's zoning subcommittee, said he voted in favor of the solar farm in support of the work done by the members of the county Planning and Zoning Board.
"They did the work and heard all the testimony and agreed that (SolAmerica) had met all of its legal requirements," Kingdon said after the vote Tuesday. "I support them. I also thought that Robert's Rules of Order requires the person who makes the motion to vote in favor of it."
The proposal has been rigorously opposed by residents of Lakeview Acres and the city of Eureka. Residents argued the solar farm that would blanket about 25 acres with thousands of glass solar panels would be aesthetically displeasing, a drag on property values and a safety concern, among other reasons. The city argued the facility would block further residential development.
Outright rejection of the request was not one of two options that Woodford County State's Attorney Greg Minger described in past legal advice he presented to the board. He said the County Board had the option to send it back to the zoning board for reconsideration, which it did last summer. The zoning board then reaffirmed its decision to recommend approval of the request. The second option, according to Minger, was for the board to approve the zoning board's recommendation.
The County Board rejected its attorney's advice and rejected the request for the special exception.
With Tuesday's vote, "The County Board is done with the issue," Minger said. "The only thing now is to wait and see what happens."
SolAmerica officials have said they will consider a lawsuit against the county for failing to approve a special exception request that meets all legal requirements.
"If Woodford County refuses to grant the special use permit despite SolAmerica's compliance with all county requirements, SolAmerica has no other remedy than to file suit to require the county to follow their own rules," John Buffington, vice president of business operations for SolAmerica, said this week. "It’s certainly not a step we want to take, but if the County Board is not going to follow their own standards, then we have no other choice."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.