by Billy Ball
Orange County commissioners will hold a public hearing tonight on a proposed solar farm on a 50-acre tract just north of Chapel Hill. The hearing will begin the process for builders to obtain a special use permit for the property, which is located off Mount Sinai Road near Cascade Drive. The applicants, Arizona-based Sunlight Partners LLC, intend to use roughly half of the land to build solar arrays, which will feed into the public power grid.
County Planning Director Craig Benedict said Orange County currently has one similarly-sized solar farm already in construction in the White Cross area.
Officials are expecting some opposition to the development, chiefly over fears that it will lower neighboring property values. The property is located within the county's rural buffer and is surrounded on three sides by residential development.
Tonight's hearing is a quasi-judicial hearing, meaning supporters and opponents will be limited to fact-based evidence, rather than subjective opinions.
Commissioners will not be making a decision on the application tonight. Following the hearing, it will be referred to the county Planning Board, which is expected to make a recommendation in time for commissioners' Sept. 16 meeting.
Obtain a copy of the permit application here. Tonight's meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the county's Department of Social Services office, located at 113 Mayo St. in Hillsborough.