The fate of a proposed solar farm project off US 501 near Scotland Memorial Hospital will likely be determined by the Laurinburg City Council at its regular meeting tonight.
The council will hear arguments in a quasi-judicial setting, where individuals are sworn in to discuss the merits of the project. Because of the location in question – in a field beside a high-traffic highway and near the Balmoral neighborhood – the proposed site of the solar farm has drawn the ire of a number of locals.
Those residents appeared at a recent meeting of the Laurinburg Planning Board to speak out against the project, arguing that it would depress property values, turn off visitors because of its unsightliness and even that it may cause erosion and drainage problems.
Known as Strata Solar, the Chapel Hill-based firm responsible for the project is expected to dispatch representatives to tonight’s meeting. As they lobby the city council to grant the required rezoning, the Strata representatives will be hoping for a better response than the one they received from the planning board, which voted unanimously not to recommend the project.
Strata representatives will also look to offer rebuttal to concerns about the solar farm project during the public hearing.
“Our hope is to give a fair hearing to the project,” said Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker on Monday.
According to Parker, the city council reserves the right not to take a vote on the project tonight, and table the matter until more information is available.
The rights of the property owner involved will also be weighed against the potential affect that the solar farm may have on those in the area, according to Parker.
“You can’t really tell someone what to do when they own the land, however,” Parker said. “We will also keep in mind that similar projects have been approved in the past.”
Special consideration will not be given to those taking issue with this project simply because it borders an upscale neighborhood, Parker added.
Interim City Manager Harold Haywood said that he expects the public hearing to occupy most of tonight’s meeting.
“That’s going to be the big item, I think,” Haywood said. “It has been discussed for a while, and now it will be time to hear the arguments.”
The Laurinburg City Council met on Monday night for another round of interviews of candidates to the position currently being filled by Haywood. Held in a closed session, the meeting is one of several expected to take place over the coming weeks, until a hire is made.
Haywood assumed the role of Interim City Manager following the resignation of Ed Burchins for personal reasons in December of 2012.
“We are closer than we have been, but I wouldn’t say we are there yet,” Parker said of the hiring process.