Solar panels

The Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is poised to approve a special exception application for a 50 megawatt solar facility in Archer.

At a special meeting on Tuesday the BOCC will decide whether to allow FL Solar 6 to build a 638-acre facility off of County Road 346 in an agriculture district with a rural/agriculture land use designation.

According to the staff presentation documents, if the proposed facility is approved, it would be the fourth in Alachua County and will serve the proposed client Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), which supplies electricity throughout the county.

Previous solar facility special exceptions presented to the BOCC include:

  • SYBAC facility on NE 53rd Avenue—6 megawatts
  • FPL Array in eastern Alachua County—74.9 megawatts
  • Prairie View Solar Park off of SW 63rd Avenue—1.5 megawatts
  • Application ZOX-01-20 for a 74.9 megawatt facility that was denied in October 2020

The denied 2020 application was proposed adjacent to Saint Peters Cemetery and Saint Peter's Baptist Church on 650 acres on the northeast corner of SW 170th Street and SW 95th Avenue.

After a special meeting that lasted for seven hours, then-Commissioner Mike Byerly moved to grant the application, but the motion wasn't seconded.

Commissioner Charles Chestnut moved to deny the application, saying there are other places in the county to build a power plant that are not adjacent to a historic African American community.

Commissioner Ken Cornell listed seven reasons why he voted to deny the application, closing with, "It's the right project in the wrong place."

The motion to deny passed 3 to 2 with Commissioners Chestnut, Wheeler and Cornell voting to deny the application and Byerly and Hutchinson dissenting.

Since that application, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Florida SB 896 into law. The renewable energy bill "requires solar facilities to be a permitted use in all agricultural land use categories in a local government’s comprehensive plan and all agricultural zoning districts within an unincorporated area," according to the bill summary.

According to the meeting agenda and backup documents, Alachua County staff recommends that the BOCC find the special exception application "consistent with the Alachua County Comprehensive Plan and Unified Land Development Code and that they adopt the resolution (Z-21-01) approving the special exception request."

The meeting starts at 5 p.m. and the public may attend and participate virtually and in-person via public comment. The commission will take public comment in person or by calling 1-800-876-7516. The public may view the meeting on Cox Channel 12, Facebook, and the county’s video on demand website.

The public may submit comments and written or photographic documents to the BOCC through email (bocc@alachuacounty.us) before the meeting or by participating when prompted by the chair of the board.

The agenda and backup document links are available online.

Map of proposed solar facility in Archer, Florida

A map of the area designated for a proposed solar facility off of County Road 346 in Archer. 

Mainstreet Daily News Reporter

Suzette Cook is a Mainstreet Daily News reporter who has been a community journalist for more than 30 years.

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