Editor's note: Dan Geddings is a weekly columnist for The Sumter Item. Email Geddings at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of Hurricane Irma, Clarendon County Council will hold its regular meeting originally scheduled for Monday, Sept. 11, on Thursday, Sept. 14.
I was somewhat distressed to read Jim Hilley's article in the Item's Aug. 18 issue of The Clarendon Sun concerning a proposed solar farm near Paxville. I was left wondering why Clarendon County even has a Planning Commission if the county administrator can just dismiss the Planning Commission's recommendation and urge county council to override their recommendation.
The Planning Commission listened to the citizens and based their decision on the will of the people that own land and live in that community. I applaud them for their thoughtful consideration. The county administrator apparently does not care about the will of the people.
The county's economic director must assume that the project's approval has already been decided, before the people have been heard by council, in an upcoming public hearing [Sept. 14]. So, I would also ask - why bother with a public hearing if the decision has already been made?
It is ridiculous that a solar project would be placed in an agricultural zoning. A solar complex is a high-tech industrial activity. It is not an agricultural activity. No food or fiber will be produced there. What it will do is take our open spaces and productive farmland away to serve Duke Energy customers in - North Carolina? The electricity produced there will not serve Clarendon County.
Councilman Benton Blakely is correct to note that farmers are concerned. Solar companies will pay a premium price for land rental. Prices that farmers will not be able to compete with. And for what - electricity that we don't need.
So why even do a solar project now? That's easy. The power companies must buy it. It's a windfall for developers and an eyesore for everyone else. Solar power may be the future, but at what cost?
The Santee Cooper lakes were built primarily to provide electrical power to rural areas of South Carolina. The lakes also provide for navigation, an incredible recreational asset, and residential development. What will a solar farm provide? A few more tax dollars and irreparable harm to our community.