Northumberland supervisors again table solar decision

by Jackie Nunnery

As part of First Responders Day on September 1, the Northumberland County Board of Supervisors presented resolutions to members of Mid County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Northumberland County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Northumberland Department of Emergency Services, Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfields Volunteer Fire Department and Callao Volunteer Fire Department and Smith Point Sea Rescue “for their service and sacrifice to our community.”

HEATHSVILLE—Citing last minute and incomplete information, the board of supervisors on Thursday, September 1, voted 5-0 to again table a decision on a conditional use request by Community Power Group (CPG) and property owners Philip “Ricky” Haynie, Judith Haynie and Philip “PJ” Haynie for a 5-megawatt solar project near Whays Creek.

Ricky Haynie said he is involved in a 10-year project “cleaning up the James River because of all the coal they burned” to generate electricity. “It’s time for us to look at renewable energy.” Haynie cited added tax revenue and the elimination of fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides that will make its way into surrounding waters as benefits. “We need to make decisions based on facts. Because someone doesn’t want to look at something, it’s not the right to deny an individual of what to do with his or her property.”

A number of conditions were suggested by the county if approved. Among them, evergreen vegetative screening with a minimum of four feet; a surety bond of $144,250 prior to obtaining permits and updated every five years; and a 200 foot setback from Fairport Road.

Supervisor James Brann wanted to ensure that the fence would be included as discussed; as well as a complete decommissioning plan, stormwater management plan and a fire prevention and vegetative management plan. Brann also questioned what would happen with the surety bond if the developer went bankrupt. “I’m not against solar and I’m not much on telling someone what they can do with their property, but if we’re going to bring solar into this county, it’s got to be done right,”he said.

CPG also offered a $1,400 per megawatt revenue sharing agreement, help for the landowner to relocate commercial vehicles to a screened location; and installation of a 15,000 gallon tank with connections to an existing artesian well for use by the fire department.

Ronald Jett, Richard Haynie, Thomas Tomlin, James Long and Brann voted in favor of carrying over the decision until October 13.

Meanwhile, the board unanimously, 5-0, approved a conditional use permit authorizing owner Daniel Swarey to build an Amish community school on an agriculture zoned parcel. The 82.06 acre parcel is on Fruit Plain Road in Callao.The decision had previously been tabled.

School board

During public comment, school board member Denise Mazyck asked why action had not been taken on roof repairs of the county-owned EVB building housing the school board office. She said “it has been a topic of discussion for well over a year,” and listed numerous meetings since February 2021 where roof repairs had been discussed, including a February 2022 planning commission meeting where member Patrick O’Brien suggested the “school board has enough money squirreled away to fix” it.

The board held a special meeting July 20 to consider engineering options to replace the existing leaking roof, but no action was taken at that or the board’s August 11 meeting. “Our school board employees were moved from one hazardous environment in Lottsburg right into another one in Heathsville. The roof continues to leak, especially into the office of the payroll specialist. She has dirty water leaking into a bucket and the room smells of mold and mildew. She has routinely experienced respiratory illness. This problem is not going away and the discussion has gone on long enough,” said Mazyck.

She also said someone is interested in the Lottsburg building that formerly housed the school board, yet the potential buyer was told “the school board was the hold up” in making a decision on the sale or lease of the property. Mazyck informed the board that she “was part of the decision to return the property to the county in September 2021. If I or we still need to do something for this transaction to be completed, we need to know.”

Tomlin made a motion at the close of the meeting to move forward at the former EVB building with a low slope design as presented in July in order to get bids. The board approved the motion, 5-0.

Other topics

Also during public comment, Reedville resident Maurice Johnson said the county had sent a voter registration card to his mother-in-law who died in 2018. “Every year, they send out documentation. I want someone to make sure the voter rolls are clean,” said Johnson.

Brann updated the board on the plans for expanding a Christmas celebration in Heathsville. He said original plans for the parade were scrapped because it would have interfered with other planned activities. Instead, Brann is seeking to extend the Golden Village Christmas activities at Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern into the evening. He asked homeowners and business owners in the Heathsville area to decorate, as well as volunteer to “help to put this program together. ”

The board also unanimously approved:

• A fiscal year 2023 budget amendment of $1,825,040.73, which includes $650,384.73 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) carryover funds, and $1,174,656 in new ARPA funds.

• A supplemental appropriation of $2,004.69 for technology upgrades at the Sheriff’s Office.

• A National Incident Management and annual emergency operations plan.

• The application for a rescue squad grant. If approved, the county would need to supply matching funds of $24,293.85.

• The purchase of a used pump for the sanitary district at a cost of $19,844.92. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be used to pay for it.

Following a closed session, the board unanimously approved two positions in the sanitary district with salaries of $34,532.57 each.