A solar power facility in Gore has gotten the green light from the Frederick County Board of Supervisors.

The board approved a conditional-use permit for the 83-acre, 20-megawatt facility on a 6-1 vote Wednesday night.

Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr., Vice Chair J. Douglas McCarthy and supervisors Judith McCann-Slaughter, Josh Ludwig, Blaine Dunn and Shawn Graber voted in favor of the CUP. Bob Wells voted against it.

Hollow Road Solar, a subsidiary of Leesburg-based Blue Ridge Energy Holdings LLC, plans to build the facility on three properties totaling 326 acres. The land, which is zoned Rural Areas, is south of Parishville Road (Route 610), south of the cul-du-sac of Anchorage Lane (Route 1416), and north and west of Hollow Road (Route 707). Blue Ride Energy Holdings owns 236 acres and Diane Holmes, trustee for Cheyenne Faith Fender, owns the rest.

Blue Ridge Energy Holdings CEO Patrick Groomes told the supervisors the solar facility will bring numerous benefits to the county, including an estimated $2 million in tax revenue. It also will prevent the development of 47 houses on the property, which is a by-right use for the site, and the company will extinguish transfer of development rights.

This was Hollow Road Solar's second attempt to obtain a permit for the project. The board denied a CUP application in March, in part, because the supervisors said they had not seen the impact of two other solar facilities they had recently approved in southern Frederick County.

In May, Hollow Road Solar, National Fruit Orchards Inc. and Diane Holmes sued the board for denying the permit, saying the denial was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” The lawsuit was initially filed in Frederick County Circuit Court but advanced to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia Harrisonburg Division. A joint status report from Nov. 29 said that the parties were in discussions, but online records have not shown any updates since then.

County Attorney Roderick Williams said while the lawsuit has not officially been resolved, the board's approval of the permit should lead to a resolution.

Neighbors near the site have also raised concerns that the solar panels will damage their view of the landscape and potentially create health hazards.

Groomes reassured the board that the facility must meet Virginia Department of Environmental Quality standards. He also said the solar panels are silicone-based, not thin-film, and will not leak harmful material into the soil.

McCarthy said he understands the concerns of those who live near the site, but he believes “the benefits to the county outweigh the downsides to the county,” particularly when it comes to conserving land and slowing development.

The permit requires that a phase 1 archeological and architectural survey be completed before site plan approval. The survey must be submitted to the county's Department of Planning and Development and the state Department of Historic Resources (DHR).

The permit also says pile-driving of poles for solar arrays shall be limited to 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. All other construction activities are permitted 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday. No construction activities are permitted on Sundays.

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