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Solar panel proposal hits roadblocks

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -

Gulf Power wants to build a solar power farm on more than 850 acres of land in northern Walton County.

Herman Walker owns the property, and according to the Walton County Planning Commission meeting minutes from December 22nd, 2020, it’s zoned general agricultural.

The land development code says that land can be used for renewable energy.

Walker said this would be a great opportunity to bring a new, clean industry to Walton County.

“I didn’t think that it would be an issue, I really didn’t, and I thought that I was really doing something very beneficial to the county,” said Walker.

Neighbors have mixed feelings about solar panels.

“I have no problem with it, I think it would do the economy well in this area,” said John Paul, who lives near the proposed solar farm.

Many residents voiced their concerns and opposition to the project in front of the board of county commissioners in December.

Public Information Manager Louis Svehla said the commission must approve every land development plan.

“There are certain things within the land development code that say certain types of projects go before the board to be heard for approval or denial. One of those is a major development order. That has to do with something major that’s going to impact an area or impact something within a zone,” said Svehla.

If the board does not approve a plan, those submitting the plan can take any action they see necessary, including legal action. And that’s exactly what Gulf Power did when its plan was denied.

Planning director Mac Carpenter could not comment on the decision due to pending litigation.

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