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WESTMORELAND COUNTY, VIRGINIA

Land Use Administration


MONTROSS, VIRGINIA 22520

P. O. Box 1000 Phone: (804) 493-0120


Montross, Virginia 22520 Fax: (804) 493-0604

Board of Supervisors
Staff Report
Date: June 5, 2017
From: Beth McDowell, Planner
Case #: #1706-SE-02
Site Address: 1072 & 1079 Gardys Mill Road
Site Location: near Gardy Millpond/Northumberland County line
Magisterial District: Cople Magisterial District (Election District 1)
Site Tax Map: 55-112, 114, 115
Owner/Applicant: Foxwell Family Trust (agent=Roger Bowers @ FutureLaw LLC)
Site Property Size: 184.9 acres (excluding the future house lot)
Site Zoning District: A-1 Agriculture
Utilities: private well & septic drainfield (existing, to serve houses)
Authority: 10-3.12 Special Exception Permit
Project Description: Special Exception for a solar generation facility
Planning Commission: On June 5, 2017, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended
approval of this application with the attached conditions
Board of Supervisors: Wednesday June 14, 2017 (6:00 p.m., George English building)

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FINDING OF FACTS

Project Description:

The property is approximately 185 acres, split by Gardys Mill Road through the middle. The central portion of
the acreage is cleared and currently used as cropland. The outer portion is wooded and moderately sloped down
to water or wetlands. There are also two homes and assorted outbuildings near the road.

The applicants would like to develop the property as a solar generation facility, commonly known as a solar
farm. The solar panel arrays would be placed on the already cleared areas of the property. Minimal removal of
additional trees is anticipated in order to reduce shading from the south.

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Issue:

The Zoning Ordinance does not specifically address solar facilities, but it does provide for the use Public
Utility Facility. The property is zoned A-1 Agriculture, and a Public Utility Facility is permissible with
approval of a Special Exception.

Surrounding Zoning and Development:

The property borders Gardy Millpond to the south. The eastern and western borders are perennial streams and
wetlands that are tributaries of the pond and ultimately West Yeocomico River. Please note that, rather than the
50 feet shown on the conceptual plan, a vegetated buffer of 100 feet is required around these features.

The adjacent properties within Westmoreland County are zoned A-1 Agriculture and are mostly wooded or
cropland, with a few scattered residences. There is higher-density residential development one-third of a mile
north, near the intersection with Cople Highway.

There is a public boat ramp on the southern point on this property along the roadway. The conceptual plan
shows over 800 feet of sloping wooded terrain between the solar arrays and the public area.

Gardys Mill Road crosses into Northumberland County just past the boat ramp. From aerial images and visual
inspection, that area appears to be mostly woods, farmland, and scattered residential uses. There is also a
seafood distribution business on the Northumberland side of the pond.

Water/Sanitary System:

We do not anticipate the need for permanent water supply and wastewater disposal in association with this
project. These are not required for utility projects unless there will be on-site employees after the initial
installation. Each existing house is currently served by private well and septic drainfield.

Transportation:

VDOT approval of any work within the right-of-way will be required by the permitting process.

Landscaping and Screening:

The entirety of the solar fields shall be enclosed by fencing at least 6 feet in height. A 20-foot wide vegetative
buffer shall be planted along Gardys Mill Road to shield the facility from the view of motorists. At the request
of the Planning Commission, this new vegetation should be two staggered rows of trees, one row consisting of
Leyland cypress and the second row of arborvitae. The areas along the roadway that are currently vegetated are
proposed to be preserved by the applicants.

In addition, transitional screening is required by Article 6-8 of the Zoning Ordinance around the future house
lot. This should be 25 feet in width and consist of two rows of staggered evergreen trees and one row of
evergreen shrubs.

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Comprehensive Plan Considerations:

According to the Comprehensive Plan, the majority of Westmoreland residents desire that the rural areas of
Westmoreland County preserve their rural character, and this property has been designated as Rural Lands in
the Plan. Rural Lands are intended to retain their existing character as much as possible. That is, they will
remain primarily for agricultural or forestland use, but also with some areas of residential, commercial,
intuitional, and industrial uses Most (non-agricultural uses, specifically commercial uses) will be related to
the natural resources of the area. Solar energy is, of course, a basic natural resource across the County.

Map 8.22c designates a portion of this property as a Natural Area Core with a high ranking. Natural Area Cores
are natural areas of 100 contiguous acres or more. The Plan advises that consideration be given to a proposed
projects impact on these areas and natural resources such as forests, wetlands, and wildlife areas. In this case,
the map of the core does not appear to include the cropland near the road, which is where this development is
proposed.

Map 8.13 in the Comprehensive Plan also identifies this cropland as prime agricultural soils (soil type Suffolk
Sandy Loam). During the operation of the solar facility, the array area couldnt be used as cropland, although
sometimes grazing of smaller animals is acceptable. The land would remain relatively cleared, as solar panel
arrays require that the land under and around them remain cleared to prevent shading of the sunlight. Typically,
land used for solar facilities is leased for approximately 30 years. After that time, if the lease is not renewed, all
related appurtenances would be removed and the land could be returned to an agricultural use.

Additional Notes:

There are currently two residential areas on these lots. The one on the western side of Gardys Mill Road is
proposed to be removed. The home on the eastern side of the road (1079 Gardys Mill Road) is to remain. The
applicants have indicated that they wish to adjust the property lines to create a separate house lot that will not be
part of the solar facility.

RECOMMENDATION

Should the Board consider approval of the request, staff recommends the following conditions:

1. The Special Exception is approved in general accordance with the Preliminary Site Plan Map, designed
by Timmons Group and dated March 29, 2017. Contrary to that plan, the setback from any jurisdictional
wetlands, perennial streams, and the pond shall be at least 100 feet.

2. The future house lot for 1079 Gardys Mill Road, as generally shown on the Preliminary Site Plan Map,
shall be excluded from the approval of this Special Exception.

3. In accordance with Article 6-7.3(5), a 50-foot wide strip of existing vegetation along Gardys Mill Road
shall be preserved as part of the landscape area along the right-of-way. If the preserved vegetation is
removed at any time during the operation of this facility, a landscape area in accordance with Article 6
shall be planted.

4. In areas where vegetation needs to be planted, the vegetation shall be planted as one row of Leyland
cypress trees ten (10) feet on center and a staggered row of arborvitae also ten (10) feet on center. The

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trees shall be at least 3 feet in height at the time of planting. Comparable trees would be acceptable if
approved by the County.

5. Transitional landscape screening shall be provided around the future house lot in accordance with Article
6-8.

6. Electrical wiring between the solar arrays and the inverters shall be underground. This requirement shall
not apply to a possible overhead crossing of Gardys Mill Road and the facilities at the interconnection
point to the local utility power grid distribution lines along Gardys Mill Road.

7. The total height of the solar arrays shall not exceed twenty (20) feet above the ground. This height
limitation requirement shall not apply to a possible overhead crossing of Gardys Mill Road and the
facilities at the interconnection point to the local utility power grid distribution lines along Gardys Mill
Road.

8. Fencing along the exterior of the facility shall be at least six (6) feet in height.

9. Prior to the issuance of permits for installation of equipment, a plan for decommissioning the facility
shall be provided. The solar energy system shall be decommissioned and removed within twelve (12)
months after the facility ceases electricity generation for a continuous twelve-month period.
Decommissioning shall include removal of solar collectors, cabling, electrical components, any bases or
footers, and all other associated items.

10. Any expansion of this use beyond the terms provided herein shall require amendment to this Special
Exception approval.

11. In accordance with the provision of Article 10-3.12 (11) of the Westmoreland County Zoning
Ordinance, the activity shall begin within 365 days of the approval of this Special Exception by the
Board of Supervisors. Prior to the start of the activity, zoning and/or building approval must be sought
and granted.

12. This Special Exception and all conditions listed herein shall run with the land but may be revoked by the
County of Westmoreland or its designated agent for failure by the applicant or its assigns to comply with
any of the listed conditions or any provision of Federal, State or Local regulations.

13. No additional or future development will be permitted on the property except in compliance with all the
applicable codes.

Attachments:
Application
Tax Map 55
Aerial photo of lot and surrounding area
Preliminary Site Plan (designed by Timmons Group, dated March 29, 2017)
Transmittal letter from Roger Bowers (2 pages)
Project summary (5 pages)
Proffered conditions from the applicant
Decommissioning Plan Procedure (4 pages)
Sample images

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