The Christian County fiscal court heard an update about the Dogwood Corners solar energy project and also passed an ordinance about projects of that type on Thursday.

Magistrate Mark Cansler presided over the meeting on November 10 in the absence of Judge-Executive Steve Tribble.

Gary Mclaren and Megan Stahl of Orien presented an update on the Dogwood Corners solar project as well as discussed ordinance consideration. Mclaren discussed the project’s inception, development process, reasons for the project’s location, economic benefits, and existing county plans.

“It’s my first time in Christian County and it is good to be here to listen to some of the folks speak passionately about both sides of this issue. These solar projects always begin after we have a critical mass of landowners in an area that are willing to sign up their land for it and that support it. So, we never come into a community where we are not wanted by large landowners willing to put up their property for lease purposes,” said Mclaren.

Mclaren and Stahl stated that the company is willing to work with the community, but noted that the proposed ordinance is overly restrictive. Stahl also claimed that the ordinance is discriminatory against the solar industry and contradicts other county and state laws.

“We looked at Logan County, which is a great example. They’ve proposed 100 feet from public roadways and 250 feet from school, churches, hospitals and cemeteries. The 2,000 feet seems like a way to kill the project and that ordinance would take the potentially usable area of these participating landowners that want the project down to about a quarter of what they could have used for their property,” said Stahl.

Stahl stated that while 150 feet is a common limit for solar projects, they are willing to compromise to 500 feet.

The fiscal court, on the other hand, passed the solar panel ordinance, which states that large-scale operations with ground-mounted panels must be set back at least 1,000 feet from property lines and at least 2,000 feet from residences, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

Senator Whitney Westerfield thanked the court for its work on the ordinance and expressed his eagerness for it to pass and become part of Christian County law.

The Fiscal Court held a public hearing on the county’s proposed issuance of industrial revenue bonds with a maximum principal amount of 32 million to fund a project that includes capital additions and improvements to Jennie Stuart Medical Center (JSMC).

“Having served on that board when I was mayor of this community, it opened my eyes to a lot of what goes on at Jennie Stuart. This is going to take us to a whole ‘nother level of improvements and also the way we serve the community,” said Squire Rich Liebe.

The JSMC grant was approved, and it will fund the expansion of JSMC’s emergency, medicine, and oncology services.

Furthermore, the Fiscal Court approved a grant of $2 million for the construction of a barrel aging warehouse for MB Roland Distillery, Inc. According to Magistrate Darrell Gustafson, distilleries like MB Roland and Casey Jones bring visitors from all over the world to Christian County.

Lastly, the Fiscal Court authorized a tornado clean-up of three creeks from the December 2020 tornado — one on Lafayette, one on Parksville Pike, and two on Highway-115 south of Pembroke.

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