Neighbors of a proposed 12-acre solar farm east of Albany are voicing opposition to the project.
The proposed project would sit on land that is adjacent to Eicher Road along Highway 20, and the concerns being expressed range from ecological to personal.
The actual solar panel grid would be located on the Cox Creek Lane side of the property. The project includes a chain-link security fence that will enclose the grid.
The applicant — Sulus Solar, based in Portland — originally proposed a 20-acre project and got it approved by the Linn County Planning Commission in February.
Neighbors appealed that decision to the Board of Commissioners, which held a public hearing on the matter Wednesday.
Portland attorney Damien Hall, who is representing Sulus, told the commissioners the project had been scaled back in response to the neighbors' concerns.
“We got some feedback to drop the project size to 12 acres,” he said. “We wanted to work with the neighbors.”
That decision didn’t seem to assuage the neighbors’ concerns, however. At Wednesday's hearing, several of them said the application doesn’t give an accurate depiction of how close the fence line will be to other properties.
“Half of the acres will be within 120 feet of my neighbor’s property and front yard,” said Patrick Green, a neighboring resident who’s one of those leading the appeal effort. “We’re talking about reduced home values here.”
Neighbors also claimed that the project will have adverse effects on migrating wildlife and a nearby emerging wetland. Just what wetland mitigation is required on the site remains to be seen. Hall said that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has yet to evaluate the site for various concerns, such as stormwater mitigation and ecological impacts.
In its application, Sulus and Marble Solar, the company that will actually install the solar panels, say there will be at least 50 feet of space between the project area and the nearest wetland. Opponents said that, without a proper study of the environmental impacts, the application is incomplete and should be denied.
“There will be stormwater affected by this project, and there will be runoff,” said Clackamas County resident Les Poole. “There’s an emergent wetland here … that means it’s growing. I don’t know how the Planning Commission was able to make a decision with the information they have.”
A couple of people in attendance also groused about the venue for the public hearing, which they said made it quite difficult for the public to hear the speakers.
The meeting was held in the George K. Miller Meeting Room of the old Armory Building on Fifth Street, and the creaking of wood floors overhead completely drowned out the speakers at times. No one was using a microphone because of COVID concerns, which also made it difficult to hear the speakers, who were facing away from the audience.
The Board of Commissioners sometimes uses the Linn County Fair & Expo Center for hearings where a large crowd is expected, but it was already in use for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. County officials also say the public was given enough time to provide comment and that the commissioners themselves could hear just fine.
“At the end of the day, the decision will be based on the record and we were able to hear,” said Commission Chair Roger Nyquist. “And we gave ample opportunity to provide additional information into the record.”
Rather than make a decision at the Wednesday hearing, the commissioners opted to leave the public record open for three more weeks. Each side then has a week after the record is closed to submit rebuttals to whatever new information is added to the record.
The board is expected to make a decision at its June 2 meeting, though it can delay its decision again if commissioners feel it’s necessary.
Troy Shinn covers healthcare, natural resources and the Linn County government. He can be reached at 541-812-6114 or email@example.com. His can be found on Twitter at @troydshinn.