Neighbors concerned with solar farm in Greene County

Birdseye Renewable Energy is planning to lease land from two property owners in Chuckey and put solar panels on about 100 acres.

CHUCKEY, TN (WJHL) – A planned solar farm has neighbors pushing back in Greene County.

Birdseye Renewable Energy is planning to lease land from two property owners in Chuckey and put solar panels on about 100 acres.

News Channel 11 talked with Virginia Brown, one of the two property owners who agreed to have the solar panels on her property.

Brown said she and her husband are reaching retirement age and are hoping this will be a way to pass the farm down to her kids.

She said none of her kids live here so they couldn’t keep up a farm, but want to keep it in the family and make some extra money.

Brown said she and her husband are the fourth generation of Browns living on that farm land.

But some neighbors around the planned solar farm area say this plan will jeopardize their land.

Brown said they have 300 acres outside the solar farm. She said they’ve put their life’s work in to the farm and are not going to do anything to jeopardize land they have outside the farm.

But some neighbors have filed an appeal to stop the plan from moving forward, and about 100 people have signed a petition expressing their opposition to the plan.

One of those neighbors is Nell Vest.

“Right down through there you’ll be able to see it” Vest said as she pointed out her living room window. “It’d just be solar panels down through there.”

Since she was 12, Vest has lived in the same house, with the same view.

“My uncle and my father built this house,” Vest said.

She said she’s concerned 100 acres of solar panels near her place will drive down her property’s value.

“It’s an eyesore,” Vest said. “To have to get up every day and look at that on all this beautiful land out here.”

“No offense to solar panels, but it’s not the pretty hillside were looking at here,” Steve Fisher, who lives on the other side of the proposed solar farm said.

He lives in the Airpark community, which is also a community airport.

Fisher said he’s concerned about the glare flying over the panels, his property value, and potential water run off from the glass panels.

“All that hillside drains in to a little valley, goes across our street down here, and when we have a downpour it floods. So any additional runoff from the glass solar panels is a real concern for us,” Fisher said.

Fisher said he only recently found out about the project.

“We only found out about it a few weeks ago when we saw some workers out in the field and inquired as to what they were doing,” Fisher said. “If there’d been conversation in the beginning , maybe some things could have been arranged or changed differently where it wouldn’t have been a problem.”
We talked with Birdseye Renewable Energy’s owner Brian Bednar who said the company has been investing money in the project for over a year, about $150,000 so far. He also said he’s aware people don’t want to look at the panels and said they will put in a buffer with landscaping.

The company has contracted with TVA to purchase the power.

Bednar said it’s a good deal for the county, generating more than $25,000 in property tax revenue in a year for the county.

Greene County building official Tim Tweed gave the company the go-ahead saying it fits in to the agricultural zone.

“That was our staff’s belief that that’s where it fit. It happens to be next to an airpark residential area and so that’s where they feel it doesn’t fit in there. So they’ve made a request for appeals so it’s going through the process for the proper zoning on does it fit,” Greene County Mayor David Crum said.

Some have filed an appeal for the Board of Zoning Appeals to determine if this solar farm can go in an agricultural zone, where the property is located.

“Putting them in what’s called general agricultural zoning, it just doesn’t fit. The description of the agriculture although they keep calling it a solar farm, I call it a solar power plant,” Fisher said.

Next week the BZA will meet to determine whether the agricultural zone is appropriate for the solar farm.

If they determine it is, the company says it plans to start construction on the project by the end of this year, from there it would take four to six months to complete.

Copyright 2015 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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