Town of Robbins

The Robbins Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to grant a conditional use permit to a company that plans to place a solar farm in the town.

The permit will allow Cypress Creek Renewables, a California solar developer, to build the proposed facility on about 24 acres of undeveloped land off Gardenia Road.

Some residents have protested the project, citing concerns over the site’s proximity to Robbins Elementary School and the possible threat of herbicides seeping into the area’s well-water reservoirs.

In an effort to address those concerns, the commissioners attached several conditions to the permit’s approval. The conditions stipulate that the project “will not endanger the public health or safety” and “will not injure the value of adjoining or abutting property.”

Other conditions call for the use of organic herbicides to control weeds on the property and require the solar company to provide town employees with training for any emergencies that may occur at the site.

Commissioner Brandon Phillips was the only member of the board who voted against issuing the permit.

After the permit was granted, Commissioner Kevin Stewart told the residents in attendance that the “quasi-judicial” nature of the hearing meant the board “had to receive facts and [the facts] had to be justified” by the opinion of an attorney or an expert witness.

“We didn’t ignore your opinions; we added on eight conditions from what we gathered from what you all told us,” he said. “I feel like if we would have denied this tonight, it would have been appealed and the court would have approved it with no conditions.”

Julie Morgan, a Robbins resident who opposes the solar farm, started a petition against the project that has collected more than 300 signatures.

“We as a community have expressed our concerns of how we have been, and continue to be against, this solar industrial site,” Morgan said during the meeting. “Unfortunately our fate is not in our hands […] I highly recommend that each and every one of you property owners surrounding the site have your soil and water tested before and after the panels are installed.”

Cypress Creek Renewables has agreed to voluntarily annex itself into Robbins, a move that would allow the town to collect $20,000 in tax revenue during the first year of the facility’s existence.

The project is estimated to cost between $7 million and $8 million. However, it will create no new jobs, and none of the power generated at the facility will be distributed to residents.

Morgan said Friday that she plans to begin the process of appealing the board’s decision.

In other business, the commissioners:

* Authorized David Lambert, the town manager, to sign off on the documents to receive a $360,000 loan from Randolph Electric Membership Corporation. The loan will be used to purchase a new fire engine for the town.

* Voted to begin negotiations with Neo Corporation for asbestos abatement services at the site of the former town mill.

* Tabled discussion of a new town logo. Potential designs for the logo have been submitted to the town by students at Randolph Community College.

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