EUREKA — Georgia-based Sol America won a special zoning exception in Woodford County Circuit Court on Thursday to construct a 25-acre, 2-megawatt solar farm on agricultural property adjacent to a Eureka residential subdivision.
The special use exception had been denied by the Woodford County Board in November and was vigorously opposed by the residents of the Lakeview Acres subdivision and city of Eureka officials. On Thursday, Circuit Judge Charles Feeney dismissed the County Board's decision in favor of Sol America, according to Woodford County Board Chairman John Krug, who was in the courtroom on Thursday.
"Judge Feeney ruled that Sol America was entitled to a special use exception." Krug said Thursday. "Where it goes from here, I do not know for sure."
Woodford County State's Attorney Greg Minger and Sol America officials could not be reached late Thursday for comment.
The proposal had been batted back and forth between the Woodford County Board and the county zoning board last spring, summer and fall. Twice, the special exception was approved by the zoning board, only to be twice rejected by the full County Board — once by derailing the issue for lack of a motion to vote on it, the second time by a 10-2 vote.
Minger informed the board the solar company appeared to have satisfied all the requirements necessary to procure the required special exception to move forward with the proposal. The board, however, appeared to be swayed by public opposition and failed to support the project.
Residents had argued the solar farm that would blanket about 25 acres with thousands of glass solar panels would be aesthetically displeasing, a drag on property values and a safety concern, among other issues. The city of Eureka argued the facility would block further residential development. Residents showed up in large numbers at several meetings last year to voice their opposition to the project.
In November, Sol America spokesman John Buffington projected the company's legal recourse if the special use exception was denied.
"If Woodford County refuses to grant the special use permit despite Sol America’s compliance with all county requirements, Sol America has no other remedy than to file suit to require the county to follow their own rules,” Buffington, vice president of business operations for Sol America, said then. “It’s certainly not a step we want to take, but if the County Board is not going to follow their own standards, then we have no other choice.”
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.