LAURINBURG — A bid to rezone 44 acres of land just outside Laurinburg’s western city limits from residential to industrial use to accommodate a proposed solar energy farm was denied Tuesday by Scotland County’s Planning Board.
Voting 7-0 in what board chairman Hal Jernigan called “a difficult decision,” the board recommended denial of a request by James P. Locklear Jr. for a zoning change that would allow development of a solar farm.
The board’s vote is nonbinding. Locklear’s requested zoning change, and the planning board’s recommendation against it, will be sent for inclusion in next Tuesday’s meeting of the Laurinburg City Council.
A public hearing must be held before a final decision is made.
The land, located on the north side of X-way Road near its intersection with Blue Woods Road — and just behind the John Blue house historical site — is outside the city’s limits, but within its zoning jurisdiction. It is adjacent to residential neighborhoods and a few businesses.
“If we were to rezone this property and plans for a solar farm fall through, then we’ve got a piece of land that’s zoned for industrial use that’s right in the middle of a residential neighborhood,’’ said board member Hal Jernigan.
Jim Johnston, who lives on Wesylan Drive in the Oak Leaf subdivision, was the only property owner who appeared to speak against Locklear’s requested zoning change.
“What if the solar farm proposal falls through and then we end up down the road with a chicken processing plant or a recycling center?’’ Johnston asked board members. “The county’s other solar farms are not located so close to homes and neighborhoods.’’
Planning Coordinator Brandi Deese said rezoning the property for industrial use would allow “certain uses by right, while other industrial uses might require a conditional use permit.’’
Board member Ken Jackson said it would be “ridiculous” to rezone for industrial use a parcel “so close to residences and businesses,” adding that he is “dead set” against recommending approval in this case.
Locklear said he hoped to use funds received for leasing the land to a solar energy firm to fund his retirement. He said he’d already spent $4,000 to survey the parcel, which would include four acres for right-of-way and 40 acres of solar panels. His plan calls for a 400-foot setback from the property line.
J.L. Pate can be reached at 910-506-3171.