Solar power proponents hit a brick wall recently on the fringe of the metro area in Carver County. Three long-standing proposals to install so-called solar community gardens were all turned down in February by the Carver County Board. While two of the projects were opposed by the county planning commission, board members overrode a favorable staff recommendation in also rejecting a third solar facility in Waconia Township.
That denial came in spite of a last-minute attempt by the developer to offset aesthetic and other objections raised by neighbors, including cash payments. But the unpopular project went down in flames anyway, according to the Chanhassen Villager.
Applicant Peter Schmitt of United States Solar Corporation submitted site plans and photos that, following the Planning Commission background discussion on the project included a new landscaping proposal. It maintains a 500 foot setback from neighboring residences, proposes slatted fencing and additional trees and shrubbery within an existing grove to the south of the site that already includes over 20 spruce trees. According to board documents the new proposal also offers $800 to each neighbor residing in nearby Appaloosa Circle for additional screening.
The west metro county’s staff sided with local objections in opposing the other two solar ventures with county commissioners voting unanimously to deny both proposals.
The Planning Commission denial stated a community solar garden could impede the enjoyment of property in its immediate vicinity and that it would not be compatible with the rural neighborhood in which it would reside, which includes animal agriculture, residential homes and farms. The commission also stated that the Hollywood Town Board did not support the request.
Solar proponents turned to conservatives who support renewable energy in an effort to salvage solar in the right-leaning county. But the Conservative Energy Forum Leadership failed to turn the controversy into a property rights issue in spite of appearing before the county board and running an op-ed in a local paper.
Let’s start with the most important principle under attack here — a willing landowner and developer brought this to the county, because they agreed to use that property for a legal purpose. To exist on the political right, one must defend the right of property owners to use their land for a legal purpose. The “NIMBY” (Not in My Backyard) argument seeks to deprive an American citizen and taxpayer of their property rights and should offend any conservative unless a public nuisance exists, with calculable harm to taxpayers. No such nuisance has been alleged vis-à-vis the mere existence of solar panels.
But property owners in the rural areas targeted by big city developers weren’t buying it. Look for the resounding setback for solar power in Carver County to reverberate beyond its borders.