Greenwood County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a zoning change for a solar project off County Farm Road. Renewable Energy Services LLC requested a zoning change for more than 300 acres. The property owner spoke at the public hearing.

“I own this property with my siblings in an LLC,” former Greenwood mayor Welborn Adams said.

The zoning ordinance changed the zoning of the property from agricultural and two residential zoning classifications to light industrial.

Matt Delafield, COO of Renewable Energy Services LLC, presented to council his plan for the solar project, Sweetwater Solar.

“It’s a 34-megawatt facility,” Delafield said. “That’s roughly enough energy to power 8,500 homes.”

Delafield said the company had two public meetings to get feedback from residents on the project. He said the main concern in the community was the potential for that land to be developed into more houses.

RES will leave existing trees along the border of the property to act as a buffer, Delafield told council.

He also said the project will work around the existing streams and natural water features will remain intact.

Solar projects come with a potential tax revenue increase for the county.

“It’s poised to create significant tax base increase,” Delafield said.

He said the project at a minimum would create a 26,000% increase in tax base from the land’s current use.

“Over the expected 40-year life of the project, we are looking at $5.4 million as a baseline,” Delafield said.

RES will also post a decommissioning bond, which will ensure money will be set aside for removal of the solar farm when its term has ended, Delafield said.

Delafield said RES will record a restrictive covenant for the land that only allows the land to be used for a solar project, preventing any other light industrial use for the land. Adams emphasized that when he spoke to council.

“I just want to reiterate that we will be signing a restrictive covenant,” Adams said. “We will not be using the property as industrial.”

This project is part of a larger solar investment in Greenwood County.

“We partnered with Pine Gate Renewables,” Delafield said.

Pine Gate Renewables, a North Carolina-based solar developer, announced in January it would bring 13 solar farm projects to Greenwood County.

County Council Vice Chairman Chuck Moates asked Greenwood City/County Planner Phil Lindler why the staff recommended denial of the zoning change.

“We have to use the county’s comprehensive plan to make a recommendation to the planning commission,” Lindler said.

He said the denial is based on the future land use plan being slated for residential.

“We don’t necessarily have a concern with the particular use that is being provided,” Lindler said.

Council will still need to approve the zoning change on third reading for it to become effective.

Contact staff writer James Hicks at jhicks@indexjournal.com or on Twitter @jameshicks3.