Bless or heart, the man in the highest office cannot be trusted....

The ongoing debate over solar power


N.C. State soil scientist Ron Heiniger worries that large solar facilities like the 650-acre Summit Farms Solar Facility in Currituck County (pictured) could damage the farming environment.


Monday, January 1, 2018

The sun rises and sets. So does the outlook for solar energy in an eastern North Carolina county.

A three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled last month that developers were illegally denied a permit to build a commercial solar farm by Currituck County in 2016. The decision removes a cloud from the otherwise bright solar industry in North Carolina — second in the nation behind California — but doesn’t necessarily signal clear skies in the future.

The ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court. Or the legislature could reduce tax breaks for solar farms, making investments less lucrative.

And Currituck County already acted earlier this year to bar future development of solar farms.

“Large solar projects haven’t been a good deal for Currituck County residents, says Bobby Hanig, the county commission’s chairman,” Carolina Journal reported in April.

Not all residents agree, but their elected representatives are empowered to set zoning regulations and decide what land uses are allowed.

“Solar array” was a permitted use listed in Currituck County’s development ordinance in 2015 when Currituck Sunshine Farm LLC and Ecoplexus Inc. applied to build a solar farm on a former golf course in Grandy. The county’s planning staff and Planning Board recommend approval. But when the Board of Commissioners held a hearing, acting as a “quasi-judicial” body, a number of residents complained that solar panels wouldn’t be compatible with nearby neighborhoods; there were drainage problems on the site; and home values might be adversely affected. Commissioners rejected the application.

The developers challenged the decision. A Superior Court judge upheld the county’s action, but the appellate court reversed. Its ruling, written by Judge John Tyson, found that the developers complied with all county requirements and that no competent evidence was presented to the contrary. Specifically, the commissioners’ finding that the solar farm would endanger public health and safety wasn’t supported by facts.

A county board of commissioners may be a political body, but when it sits to determine whether an applicant for a conditional use permit qualifies, it must act in a legal capacity. In regard to fears about drainage and flooding, the Currituck board “wholly ignored Petitioners’ expert testimony on water management, and solely considered lay witnesses’ testimony of their speculative fears of worsening floods due to the present state of storm water drainage and management on adjacent properties,” Tyson wrote.

Perhaps anticipating this ruling, Currituck County, following another public hearing, wrote solar farms out of its development ordinance. Arguments were presented on both sides, by farmers who wanted to lease their land for energy development and by people who don’t see much benefit. Currituck County already has two large solar farms.

While the tax revenue for the county is substantial, it is limited by state law, which grants an 80 percent property tax exemption to encourage solar development. Bills were filed in the state House and Senate this year to reduce that break to 60 percent, but neither advanced.

Solar is filling more of our country’s energy needs and offers revenue opportunities in parts of the state where farming and traditional industries have declined. But not every local government will favor such developments. Communities should be able to set their own rules — as long as they abide by legal requirements.

The Court of Appeals made the right call in this case. The people of Currituck County can decide whether to support their leaders’ decision regarding future solar development — and should hold them accountable for acting in the sunlight of public interest.

The News and Record of Greensboro


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


September 25, 2018

The ongoing debate over guns in America has led some to vociferously call for abolishing the Second Amendment.

That’s just not wise thinking.

There are common-sense restrictions on guns that fall within the scope of the Second Amendment.

So there’s no need to even consider abolishing it.…

Gun Rights Rallies-2

September 24, 2018

We have seen the worst of nature and the best of mankind. We have seen actions that make “rising to the occasion” a breathtaking understatement. And we have seen the terrible power of an intense storm unleashed across our own region and more than half of our state. There may not be…

Tropical Weather Florence North Carolina-6

September 21, 2018

Senate Republicans found themselves politically cornered Monday as they considered what to do about the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. That nomination is suddenly in jeopardy thanks to a credible accusation from a California woman, Christine Blasey Ford, that Kavanaugh sexually…

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September 20, 2018

Earlier this summer, Robert Runcie, the superintendent of schools in Broward County, Florida, sent a back-to-school message to the "families and community" of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

His missive mentioned nothing about teachers or books or curriculum. Instead it went on for four pages…

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September 19, 2018

Hurricane Florence has lingered over North Carolina. The storm’s initial rain, high winds and storm surge-flooding has been followed by even more rain, swollen creeks and rivers along with impassable roads from interstates to neighborhood drives.

Cities like Wilmington — not merely…

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September 18, 2018

"The youth use of e-cigs is rising very sharply," Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday, as he issued the federal government's most forceful warning yet that these electronic nicotine-delivery devices are hooking a generation of teenagers. He promised that…

Flavored Vaping Sales Ban

September 17, 2018

America shouldn’t be in the coup business. Period.

It’s a relief, then, to learn that the Trump administration chose not to aid rebellious leaders in Venezuela seeking to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. But it’s worrisome to think that President Trump and his advisers…

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September 14, 2018

Over the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of criminal statutes and regulations carrying criminal penalties at the federal level. As Congress debates criminal justice reform, mens rea reform should be on the table.

For years, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced and called for…

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September 13, 2018

It is tremendously sad and horrific to think about the forthcoming disaster and what it could bring to our communities and our neighbors to the south. We did nothing, really, other than live like we always have, to bring this on ourselves. Nevertheless, it is here.

Hurricane Florence, a major storm…


September 12, 2018

You can add the name Jordan McNair to the list of college, high school and middle school players who might have needlessly died for the love of football.

A simple, well-known procedure — immersing McNair, 19, in a tub of ice water — when he collapsed at an off-season University of…

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