Solar energy, courthouse focus of public hearings

Published 1:11 pm Saturday, July 21, 2018

Two especially controversial issues in Southampton County — solar energy and the courthouse — will be the topics for public hearings when the Board of Supervisors meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 23, in the boardroom. Both subjects have, in the past few years, been of concern to voters and governing bodies alike in how they could affect the quality of life in Southampton.

Where solar energy is concerned, the first matter for comment will be on proposed ordinances that could amend certain sections of the county code chapter dealing with zoning. If they were to be adopted, those amendments would set up procedures for application and standards for Utility Scale Solar Energy Projects. These ordinances would allow such projects in Agricultural A-1 or Industrial M-2 zoning districts, with a conditional use permit.

For example, all applicants would be required to present site plans, decommissioning plans, traffic impact analyses, community impact assessments, environmental resource impact analyses, historical resource impact analyses and a landscape and noxious weeds plan.

In addition, applicants would have to post and update satisfactory surety at 5-year intervals to ascertain future decommissioning.

When the Planning Commission met in January, an initial draft was recommended by the panel. The commissioners met with the board on May 31 in a joint workshop. During that time, more amendments were made to the draft ordinance.

The supervisors could, after the hearing, go ahead to OK, deny or even defer action.


Moseley Architects, which is contracted to perform the courthouse design, presented all the options during the June meeting. After much discussion, the board narrowed the choice of nine concepts down to three, labeled by the firm as Option 5B, Option 5C and Option 7.

As previously reported, the first of those plans would be to construct a new building to accommodate all courts functions in front of the County Office Center with some parking made available on part of the land owned by neighboring Courtland Baptist Church.

Estimated cost would be $22M, but that doesn’t include repurposing the existing facility.

The second would be to construct a new building to accommodate all courts functions on property that would have to be acquired along Court Street. The estimated cost is still to be determined, but is expected to comparable to the aforementioned option plus the cost of obtaining the property.

The third would be to construct a new building adjacent to the existing courthouse.

That would mean acquiring the Seven Gables property next door. Further, the ‘60s wing would be demolished for parking. The new building would be in the floodway, and mitigation would be needed. The estimated cost is $23M, but that doesn’t include property acquisition or repurposing the existing facility.

At the meeting, Capron supervisor Bruce Phillips asked the rest of the board to take one more month for a public hearing, which it granted.

No action by the supervisors is anticipated to be taken that night.