Residents voice concerns over solar panels, courthouse

Published 10:46 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

by Kenya Smith / Intern

Dozens of residents came out to comment on two controversial subjects during Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting at the Southampton County Administration Center.

The first topic was a series of ordinance amendments to permit Utility Scale Solar Energy Projects in Agricultural A-1 or Industrial M-2 zoning districts with a conditional use permit.

Many of the residents spoke out against the ordinance amendments. They argued that adding more solar panels would mean farmers would lose more land, and businesses would lose profit.

“A-1 is not a place for industrialized solar panels,” said resident Gary Cross. “We have lost many acres of farmland in Virginia, and we need to have these farms to feed this county, nation and the world.”

The board decided to table the solar panel ordinances until its Aug. 27 meeting.

The second issue was conceptual alternatives for the construction of a new Southampton County Courthouse. The board took comments under advisement, but did not make a decision regarding this issue either.

County Administrator Michael Johnson presented slides that showed visual displays of the three options. The new construction would be contiguous to the existing Courthouse property. In Conceptual Alternative 5B, the construction of the new courthouse would take place on Main Street in Courtland in front of the Southampton County Administration Center. Alternative 5C would have the construction on Court Street, which is adjacent to the Southampton County Administration Center. Both options would cost approximately $22.5 million to construct.

Lastly, Conceptual Alternative 7 would cost about $22.9 million and would involve construction of a new Courthouse on Main Street between the existing courthouse and Seven Gables property. Option 7 would also mean that the county would have to acquire the Seven Gables property, and the 1960s wing of the existing courthouse would be demolished for parking.

Some of the residents were concerned that the presented options would compromise the historical preservation of the county, while others brought up issues of traffic and safety regarding the addition of parking lots.