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Lee County Commission Chairman Billy Mathis.

LEESBURG – The Lee County Board of Commissioners addressed a series of amendments concerning zoning and licensing during the board’s Tuesday meeting with a majority of these issues aimed at allowing the operation of an event center in the county.

The motion to approve the zoning amendments carried.

Other zoning issues discussed at the meeting were related to the design, development, and operation of solar facilities within the county, a first reading of the amendments under consideration. During the comment period Griffin Leone, the project manager for the Pinewood Solar Project, an approximately 200-megawatt project under development in the county for the past three years, addressed commissioners.

Leone expressed concern about the tax abatements agreed to prior to the current moratorium in the county related to solar projects.

“We would like to effectively grandfather the tax abatement that had executed inducement agreements prior to the date the moratorium was put in place,” he said.

Leone requested an amended statement be included to address this issue.

Johnathan Wells, outside council for Nextera on the company’s projects in Georgia, addressed concerns over definitions of solar facilities and buffering requirements.

“The buffering requirement says there needs to be a 150-foot-wide buffer from the solar facility perimeter,” Wells said. “Where this becomes problematic is this does not go to the intent of what should be buffered, which is the solar panels, inverters, that sort of thing.”

In his explanation of buffering requirements, he said that a solar contractor might own or have lease agreements to a large tract of land but only utilize a smaller portion for the solar facility. Under the existing terminology, the buffer would have to encompass the entire property not just the developed facility and assets. It would also require a 150-foot buffer for the access roads and power lines leading to the power grid, based on the way the ordinance currently reads.

Wells also contended that the current definition of the 150-foot buffer requires an additional 150 feet, which would then expand the acreage, leading to an unending progression. Instead of “perimeter,” he recommended using the “footprint” of the facility. He provided the commissioners with written recommendations and explanations.

In other business, staff recommended increasing the price of driveway installations in the county to cover the increased cost of construction since the current cost was established 10 years ago. The commission voted to approve an increase to $1,175, covering the cost of one pipe.

David Brokamp was appointed to fill a one-year term on the Joint Development Authority of Baker, Dougherty, Lee, and Terrell counties.

The meeting ended with a discussion of county-owned property, many tracts of which are unique. It was suggested by Commission Chairman Billy Mathis that staff provide each commissioner with a list of these properties in their district for consideration of disposal.

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