Solar Expansion Puts Popular Fauquier Business in Jeopardy

Photo Captions: Shady Grove owner Neil Selby and author Julie Reardon's Chesapeake Bay Retriever Usher, that Selby trained and handled to his AKC Master Hunter title.

Photo Captions:
Shady Grove owner Neil Selby and author Julie Reardon’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever Usher, that Selby trained and handled to his AKC Master Hunter title.

Last month, Dominion Power’s rezoning request to install hundreds of acres of solar panels on farmland in central Fauquier County was given the green light by the Planning Commission and today a very successful small business is in jeopardy. Dominion wants to build solar panels on the grounds of what is now Shady Grove Hunting Preserve and Kennel under the trappings of “solar energy is a good thing” and “this will be good for Fauquier County.” The real truth is that this could destroy a viable and vibrant business in order to erect hundreds of acres of solar panels that will benefit no one: not the Dominion shareholders, not the users of Dominion’s power, and last but not least, certainly not the taxpaying citizens of Fauquier County. And they will be a hideous blight on the land.

While it’s true that solar energy has made advances, even the best, most advanced technology still costs far more to produce than any possible cost savings to be had anywhere in this country, but especially in this state. Solar energy cannot be stored for peak periods like other energy forms and at best, even in a hot, sunny desert climate, is less than 30 percent efficient. Or in other words: at present, solar energy costs way more to produce than it generates. Further, the type of panels that would be installed are already obsolete. Dominion’s customers and you, the taxpayer, are the ones paying for this expensive experiment. While solar energy might one day be a worthwhile investment, that day is still a long way off and the taxpayers of Fauquier County and the rest of the state should not be forced to fund this outrageous waste of money.

Dog handlers training their retrievers at Shady Grove

Dog handlers training their retrievers at Shady Grove

Sadly, this solar boondoggle would never have gotten to the point of the Dominion request for rezoning and special exemption, had the company not been promised attractive financial and tax break incentives from Richmond and the Virginia taxpayers. These incentives are packaged under the fiction of “green energy is a good thing” when in fact the only benefit is bragging rights for the environmentalists who think “warm and fuzzy” trumps cost to taxpayers and the economy. But in a time when budgets for necessary items are being slashed, warm and fuzzy is not a good use of taxpayer funds.

Meanwhile, one of Fauquier’s finest small businesses, that happens to generate enormous amounts of economic benefit directly to this and surrounding counties, is now in serious jeopardy. Shady Grove Hunting Preserve and Kennel is a unique facility like no other in the D.C. metro area. There is a sporting clay range; duck and upland bird hunting for people who are not landowners and/or cannot afford expensive hunting leases; a dog training kennel; and many public events, including a half dozen or more American Kennel Club sanctioned dog events that all contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy. It is, perhaps, one of the county’s greatest success stories: a business that is compatible with a rural, agricultural heritage.

Currently the AKC is conducting a survey to learn how much people spend per day when they travel to dog events like the ones Shady Grove hosts. A conservative estimate is $200 per day on motels, meals, gas and incidentals. Multiply that by hundreds of attendees and multiply that over a dozen days when such events are held; it means millions are spent here as a direct result of Shady Grove hosting them. This revenue is far greater than the anticipated tax revenue and job creation of Dominion’s solar project, generously estimated to be $75,000 per year and adding no new jobs. In generating no jobs and only a paltry sum in taxes, the project would destroy up to 10 full and part time jobs directly dependent on the current business that is Shady Grove, including the business owners Neil Selby and Leslie Carter.

handlers training their retrievers at Shady Grove A wagonload of dove hunters sets out for the fields Dominion proposes to cover with solar panels at the annual Shady Grove Dove Hunt.

handlers training their retrievers at Shady Grove
A wagonload of dove hunters sets out for the fields Dominion proposes to cover with solar panels at the annual Shady Grove Dove Hunt.

Selby and Carter are vowing to do their best to keep their business alive, but could use support of like-minded Virginia sportsmen and women. Many have already supported the facility in large numbers by writing prior to the hearing where the planning commission approved the Dominion’s rezoning request to install the solar panels. Carter wrote on Shady Grove’s Facebook page that despite the project approval, “Dominion stated on public record that they were in discussions with [Selby] to find a solution for Shady Grove. The Planning Commission also requested on public record that Dominion help Shady Grove find an alternative site for operations.”

Carter further added that: “Dominion has two more stages of approval required before the solar plant is finally approved. We will need your help during these meetings as well. Please watch for further posts with information, before May 4th. Thanks to everyone Dominion saw the extensive community support that Shady Grove has.” Although Dominion owns the land, Selby has leased it since he opened his business there almost 25 years ago. He still has a lifetime lease on 37 acres, but without the 205 acres Dominion is proposing to take for the solar panels, the business would be crippled. The land needed for the upland hunts, the entire 20-station sporting clay range, and the ability to host AKC hunt tests and field trials would be lost. For information or to help out, visit the Shady Grove website at ShadyGrove.com.

Written by: Julie Reardon

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