02/23/14 — Fremont approves solar farm

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Fremont approves solar farm

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on February 23, 2014 1:50 AM

FREMONT -- The Fremont Board of Aldermen last week approved a zoning change allowing solar farms to be built in its residential-agriculture zoning areas.

The request came from Strata Solar, a Chapel Hill-based solar farm company.

The zoning change allows for the location of a solar farm with a conditional use permit only in the town's residential- agriculture district.

No location was mentioned for the farm, but Louis Iannone, site acquisition and entitlement worker for Strata Solar, said the property taxes would more than likely go to the County of Wayne instead of Fremont. Fremont has zoning control for one mile outside of its town limits in its extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ.

Iannone discussed solar farms in general with the board and answered questions.

He highlighted the clean, quiet energy a farm would produce and likened the landscape to a chicken hatchery or other farming buildings.

"I see a lot of tobacco barns around, and it's not much different than that," Iannone said. "I see a lot of agriculture around Fremont, and that is what we're doing."

Iannone said the construction is expected to bring 100 to 200 people into the area for four months -- customers who will patronize Fremont's businesses.

Iannone said he will be back for the March 18 meeting with a request for a conditional use permit for a new solar farm.

In other business, the board heard some good news from Interim Town Administrator Barbara Aycock in the form of a recommendation by the Wayne County Commissioners to approve $250,000 in Eastern Region Trust Fund loan funds to buy the town out of its loans for a lower interest loan set to be paid over five years instead of 20.

The town requested $251,880.51 to pay off existing long-term debt and another $50,000 to repair the Norwayne School sewer lift station.

"We may not see the benefit from this immediately," Mayor W. Darron Flowers said. "It's going to be a tough five years, but we will see the benefit after them greatly. We are paying $30,000 to $40,000 a year on these loans."

The county has $576,923.08 in state funding to dispense across the municipalities in the county.

The stipulation is that the money can be used by member counties for economic development projects only.