Developers who want to construct a solar farm on the south side of town plan to hold an informational meeting this week to discuss the project with area residents.
The project is a partnership between Cypress Creek Renewables, a solar company with offices in Carrboro and five other cities across the nation, and Florida-based Pine Gate Development, which make up Wakefield Solar LLC.
It is in the earliest of stages, however. Town planning staff on Wednesday said they had not had any contact from the developers.
Cypress Creek officials sent a letter to some residents Jan. 11 notifying them of plans to submit a rezoning request for the proposed site between Wakefield Street and South Arendell Avenue and informing them of the meeting set for Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m. at the Zebulon Community Center.
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A map, included with the letter, outlined the site, which consists of three parcels that total about 45 acres. Wake County real estate records show the two northern parcels are owned by Robert Horton and the southern parcel is owned by the heirs of Jean Horton.
The proposed solar farm “will occupy approximately 30 acres, will be contained by a fence and buffered with evergreen vegetation to decrease visibility,” according to the letter. It also indicates access to the solar farm would be from South Wakefield Street.
Using the land
The reason for the rezoning request is unclear.
The southern (about 32 acres) and central (about 9 acres) parcels already carry a zoning classification that allows for solar farms with a general use permit. Only the smaller, northern parcel (about 5.5 acres), is not zoned for that use.
“The little parcel is the stickler for them,” said Zebulon planner Julie Spriggs. “It would be the only one they need to rezone, or they just don’t build on that one and they build on the other two.”
Cypress Creek representatives did not return calls seeking comment for this story by press time.
The developers could build a solar farm today on the two southern parcels without ever coming face-to-face with the town’s board of commissioners. They would only need to have site plans approved by the town’s Technical Review Committee before pulling building permits.
If developers file a request to rezone any portion of the proposed site, the matter would eventually go to a joint public hearing for a legislative review by the town’s planning board and board of commissioners. Spriggs said those meetings typically fall six weeks after the monthly deadline to submit rezoning applications, which this month happens to be Jan. 27.
“At this point, it’s not about a solar farm,” Spriggs said. “It’s about whatever they would want to zone (the land) to. It’s about every use that would be allowed in whatever zoning they are trying to change into.”
Unknowns about the northern parcels have raised some concerns for at least one neighbor, John Craig, whose properties at 400 and 402 S. Arendell Ave. abut the northernmost parcel.
Craig emailed Cypress Creek representative Phillip Martin asking a variety of solar farm-related questions and others specific to this project, like what buffering provisions would be.
He also wanted a better understanding of why developers are including the two smaller parcels in the project, considering the southern parcel appears large enough to meet their space needs and is farther separated from local residences. All three parcels share borders with what are classified by the town as high density residential properties.
“Basically, it looks like (the southern parcel) is the place they would place this farm and it has very little impact looking at the maps in relationship to everything else,” Craig said.
Craig was also worried too few people had received notification letters from the developers like he did.
“My wife goes through town all the time and no one had heard of this, and most the people she talks to are very well informed,” he said. “I’m just hoping we can let as many people around there who would be affected by this know about it.”