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Zoning for business approved, solar farm decision delayed

At first glance, one would have expected Monday’s meeting of the Stanly County Planning Board to become an emotional exchange of opposing viewpoints.

A standing room-only crowd, armed with signs and posters, had completely filled the Stanly Commons meeting room 15 minutes prior to start time, with nearly the entire contingent having come expecting to hear and respond to a request by Orion Renewable Energy Group for formation of an overlay district for solar power generation south of Oakboro.

But a late agenda revision left those ready to speak on the solar power issue in wait for a future opportunity.

“The item from Orion Renewable Energy Group has been removed from the agenda at their request,” County Planning Director Bob Remsburg said. “As a result, we will not hear comments on that issue tonight.”

Remsburg said the request from Orion had been received on Friday afternoon, which was after the original agenda had been released.

“Our policy is that we notify all adjoining property owners, but with the late notice, we did not have time to get letters out,” said Remsburg, who added that the withdrawal of the item from the agenda was due to a change in Orion’s legal representation.

“The item will be considered at a later date,” he said.

The one remaining agenda item, a request by Oakmont Acquisition for rezoning of a 16.88 acre tract on Swift Road, just outside the Oakboro city limits, was then considered by the board.

“This property lies in two jurisdictions,” said attorney Charles Brown, speaking on behalf of Oakmont. “This request is for the portion that lies within the jurisdiction of Stanly County. I plan to speak to the Town of Oakboro Planning Board (Tuesday) regarding the portion within Oakboro’s city limits and extraterritorial zoning district.”

“It is my fervent hope in the months and years to come that the project that will result from approval of this request will have a tremendously positive economic impact on Stanly County,” said Brown, who added that more than 500 jobs paying as much as $32 per hour would result.

“I believe this will be the biggest economic opportunity in at least the past 100 years in Stanly County,” Brown added.

Four residents of the area that would be affected — Bart Barbee, Brett Barbee, Dustin Morgan and Darren Clark — spoke in favor of the rezoning, which would reclassify the tract from RA (Residential Agriculture) to M2 (Heavy Industrial).

“We need to seize this opportunity,” Bart Barbee said.

Candace M. Lowder, Stanly County economic development director, also expressed support for the rezoning.

No one spoke in opposition, and the board voted unanimously to recommend the request be approved by Stanly County commissioners at their March 2 meeting.