BRANDON — The developers behind the Babcock Solar project and its opponents continue to wrangle over legal matters, with neighbors saying the application should be dismissed because it’s incomplete and doesn’t account for a water line running under the property.
In late August, Babcock Solar Farm LLC filed for a certificate of public good with the Public Utility Commission for a 2.2 megawatt facility off Country Club Road.
Robert and Kathryn Clark, Jonathan Blake and Country Club Townhomes Owners’ Association Inc. filed motions in late October through their attorney, Cindy Ellen Hill, asking the Public Utility Commission to dismiss Babcock’s petition because it was incomplete and the developer hadn’t notified Brandon Fire District #1, which they said qualifies as a municipality. The PUC gave Hill and her clients until Monday to file supplemental material, which they’ve done. Babcock also filed responses to the neighbors’ motions.
Hill’s motion to deem the application incomplete, and for the PUC to either dismiss the application or order a stay, says that Babcock needs to provide testimony on the water line and address potential issues surrounding it.
“Despite (Babcock’s) prior knowledge of a public water line and related easement held by the Brandon Fire District #1, a fire and water municipality, transecting the middle of this project site… (Babcock) has submitted site plans that would extinguish this possessory easement, precluding access to the public water line, and creating grave risk of direct harm to this public water line; and has further failed to submit evidence on the criteria related to this critical public resource…” reads part of the neighbors’ motion.
The motion claims the water line is one of two that serves the town of Brandon, and that Babcock was aware of it before filing its petition, as it shows up on some of Babcock’s filed exhibits.
“Their prefiled testimony then wholly ignores it,” says Hill’s motion, adding that it’s not a simple thing to work around. “A stream, archaeological sites, and the need to store prime agricultural soils, as well as roadway and adjoining property setbacks, leaves the proposed array virtually filling the site wall to wall. Any change in site plan involving moving the solar panels presently designated for installation over the water main easement to elsewhere will inherently implicate other §248 criteria such as aesthetics, historic sites, wetlands or streams.”
The PUC’s website doesn’t show Babcock’s response to the waterline part of the neighbors’ motion, but on Oct. 30, Babcock did respond to the question of notifying the Brandon Fire District. Filed by attorney Kimberly K. Hayden, of Paul Frank + Collins PC, the response claims the neighbors lack the proper legal standing to raise the issue. It also claims the Legislature never intended the term “municipality” to be interpreted so broadly as to include fire districts.
As of Monday, the PUC hadn’t ruled on any of the motions.