Orbit Road solar farm developers pledge to replant improperly felled trees

Published 4:29 pm Monday, October 2, 2023

A 20-acre solar farm on Orbit Road is back on track to begin construction after its owner agreed to replant trees buffering the property that were improperly cut down.

Isle of Wight County supervisors approved the 2-megawatt facility in 2022. County staff paused its review of the project’s site plan in June upon discovering that a forested buffer between the farm and adjacent houses had been felled in violation of a condition of approval the supervisors had imposed last year, which mandates the landowner “not clear or cut live trees within the required setbacks or buffer yards.”

Landowner Ben Stagg on Sept. 21 attributed the violation to “miscommunication” between himself and the project’s original Charlottesville-based developer, Hexagon Energy. Atlanta-based Dimension Renewable Energy is the new owner and operator of the solar panels that will be installed.

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Stagg told the supervisors on Sept. 21 that he’d been under a three-year contract to sell the logging rights to the felled trees prior to receiving approval for the solar farm last year, and had anticipated being able to replant the land prior to the solar farm coming online. The logger, however, waited until the third year of the contract to begin clearing the land.

The supervisors voted that evening to approve an amendment to Stagg’s 2022 conditional use permit which mandates he replant the cleared area to include six staggered rows of mixed evergreen and deciduous landscaping of varying heights.

The Orbit Road facility, to be named Nuby Run, is the smallest of eight solar farms the supervisors have approved to date.