A petition signed by more than 60 people opposed to a rezoning request by a company that seeks to build a solar farm off Ball Road was presented Tuesday night to the Tusculum Planning Commission.
The rezoning request by project developers Silicon Ranch Corp. was approved by a 2-1 vote.
Rick Fancher, who lives on Norton Road off Ball Road, circulated the petition opposing the rezoning request and presented it to the Planning Commission.
The rezoning vote was the beginning of a process that will include two readings by the Tusculum Board of Mayor and Commissioners and a public hearing prior to the second reading before a final decision is made on the solar farm project.
Developer Silicon Ranch Corp. seeks to rezone the property for placement of solar panels on about an 80-acre tract of land bordered by Ball Road, Afton Road and U.S. 11E in Tusculum.
Part of the land on property along railroad tracks on Ball Road is currently zoned M-1, for general industrial, while other sections are zoned R-1, or low-density residential, and B-1, for business.
Silicon Ranch requested rezoning all the property to M-1, general industrial.
Planning Commission Chairman Dale Landers and Mayor Alan Corley approved the request. Planning Commission Secretary Teresa McCrary voted against it. Commission members Mike Burns and Eric Price were not at the meeting.
About 10 property owners were at the meeting The vote was preceded by a discussion about the rezoning request. Some of those who signed the petition are opposed to locating the solar farm in the midst of residential properties, Corley said.
Others have questioned if the solar farm would affect land values. A Silicon Farms spokesperson said last week during an online informational meeting that a real estate analyst retained by the Nashville-based company studied 19 areas where solar farms were located and found that surrounding property values were not impacted.
Those who signed the petition included area property owners, Corley said. Silicon Ranch representatives were at the planning commission meeting. A Silicon Farms representative said last week that purchase of the property owned by the Jeffers family should be complete by late January, with construction and placement of solar panels beginning in March. If the project is approved, the solar farm should be operational by the end of 2022.
The Tusculum solar farm is one of four locations being considered in Greene County by Silicon Ranch. Other properties are located on about 120 acres on Old Snapps Ferry Road, on Reed Road off of Rogersville Road and a fourth site, all in unincorporated sections of Greene County, said Chuck Bowlin, president and CEO of Greeneville Light & Power System.
Power generated by the solar farms would be sold to Greeneville Light & Power System and fed into the power grid for business and residential customers.
A public hearing, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 24, will be held before the Tusculum Board of Mayor and Commissioners considers approval of the project on second reading.
A site plan for the solar farm must also be approved. Other regulatory requirements include approval by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Corley said last week city zoning laws will require vegetative buffers, setbacks and other steps taken to keep the solar farm out of line of sight of neighbors, along with adequate access.
“I’m sensitive to the feelings of adjacent residents,” he said.
In other business Tuesday night, the Tusculum Planning Commission approved a subdivision replat request by John Foster for property at 830 Cumberland Drive.
The planning commission also welcomed the new Tusculum city planner.
Asher Cain will work with the city through its partnership with the First Tennessee Development District. Cain replaces Erica Malpass, who recently resigned to accept another position.