An open letter to members, County board of supervisors

Published 10:09 am Friday, September 23, 2016

by Glenn & Lynda Updike

The Board has a big decision to make on the future of our county. What is best for all the county residents and future generations? We hope you have kept an open mind and have listened to all the varying opinions and suggestions.

Glenn and I want to express our concerns about solar farms. WE DO NOT want to see them gobble up prime cropland out of production. We need to preserve our rural heritage and allow agriculture to continue to influence our economy. We want agriculture to continue to be the hub that turns our way of life.

Solar farms likely will lower the nearby property values. We fear noxious weeds that you can see in solar farms if you travel in North Carolina where solar farms are not being maintained. We pull up every palmer amaranth and mares tail we see — they are glyphosate (Round-Up) resistant. One palmer plant has enough seeds to cover an acre and they travel easily in the wind and by birds.

Technology changes VERY quickly. Think about the old satellite dishes when they first came out. They were huge. NOW they are quite small. Solar panels will change too, but we’d be stuck with big, antiquated ones taking up lots of land and producing very little electricity. Don’t be in too big of a hurry!

Financially, solar farms will have a negative effect on businesses as well as citizens. According to financial analyses by North Carolina State and business officials, they are NOT beneficial to the county’s people. There will be a loss of jobs when they consume prime farm land and put farmers out of business as well as agriculture-related businesses. If you attended the Planning Commission’s public hearings you heard a lot of YOUNG farmers who don’t want to lose their livelihood.

They are our future — they will be the ones paying taxes, living in this county, spending their money in the county, sending their kids to our schools, taking leadership positions in the county. If they lose their farmland and can no longer farm, they will leave the county looking for work elsewhere, and then where will we be? We keep hearing that there is nothing here for our young folks, but for our young farmers we need to make sure that there IS something here for them, and the next generations of farmers too.

The land between Newsoms and Boykins, if not farmed, is prime land for economic development because the county has spent big bucks to put in a sewage line. That line runs along highway 671. That opportunity will be wasted if solar farms are approved. The county could easily end up with 10 or more solar farms if we let the first one in. Then what will be the county’s future? No new business will want to come here to a county that disregards the citizens’ concerns and values.

And what about the Nat Turner driving trail? I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources making sure they are aware of where the Slave Insurrection of 1831 driving tour will go.

Solar farms aren’t conducive to learning about our history. Heritage tourism has begun, and those tourism dollars, when they stay in our motels, eat at our restaurants and fast food places and buy gas locally, add up!

We’ve seen only the first two solar farms. If we let in the first one, we can’t control what happens after that — it’s “Katie, bar the door.” If they went on idle land, we would not complain, but we so hate for them to take prime farmland out of production. There is a band of the very best soil that runs through Surry, Sussex, Southampton and into part of Hertford County. If you will notice, 69 percent of those signed up in the first group live outside the county. They aren’t coming back to the county to spend their land rent. That money will be gone. Also gone or scaled back will be tractor sales and repair businesses, even car sales, fertilizer dealers, seed salesmen, chemical dealers, and the list goes on. Already Meherrin Chemicals in Newsoms, and also Conway, have closed their retail business and consolidated in Como. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE MONEY COMING IN, YOU HAVE TO ALSO CALCULATE THE MONEY THAT NO LONGER WILL BE COMING IN.

Residents have been told how great the solar farm is in Accomack; however, they are now trying to stop any more from coming into the county. The fact is the planning commission has sent a recommendation to the BOS to stop all solar farms.

The company has divided this project into four or five different projects so they will not have to pay machinery and tool taxes to the county. They are already having problems with weed management — this is a problem with solar farms in North Carolina also.

Go to the link below to find a detailed report that has been developed by the Accomack County Planning Commission over the last four months detailing the concerns they have with “utility scale” solar farms being developed on agricultural land. The solar companies are telling our residents that Accomack County loves their project; however, in recent months, that has been proved not to be true.$file/Utility%20Scale%20Solar%20Report%20to%20BOS%20(Packet).pdf

Thanks for listening. We hope you will take the time to read the minutes from the Planning Commission and letters from citizens and businesses. PLEASE keep an open mind and think about what many of your constituents want.

Glenn and Lynda Updike live in Newsoms.