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Commission approves vegetative buffer for Trenton Solar Plant

The Gilchrist County Commission listened to Gilchrist Planning and Zoning Director, David M Lang, Jr. when he presented a Site Plan and proposed vegetative buffer for the Trenton Solar Plant that is located in northwest Trenton. Mr. Lang reported that Mortenson, the contractor that built the solar complex has submitted a buffer that will eliminate the public’s view of the solar panel from surrounding roadways.
Mr. Lang reported that Commissioner Thomas and County Administrator Bobby Crosby have filed memo 8B involving their possible conflict of interest in the action of the site plan for the Trenton Solar Plant. Mr. Lang explained that Commissioner Thomas is an employee of one of the property owners that has leased property to Duke Energy for the solar project. Mr. Crosby has filed a memo 8B due to Crosby Farms, LLC has submitted a proposal to Mortenson to construct the tree lines and maintain the buffer area surrounding the Trenton Solar Plant.
Mr. Lang reported that the contractor had viewed similar buffers in this area and decided to propose the planting of red cedars and sand pine trees on the buffer area. This recommendation is based on the achievement of the visual barriers the landowners and the citizens of Gilchrist County are expecting and have been used to, the proposal reported. The Gilchrist County Commission requires Duke Energy to construct a vegetative buffer to reduce the site of the solar panels from bordering roadways. The overall site plan shows three types of buffers being proposed for this project; they are Buffer 1, Buffer 2, and Buffer 3.
The Buffer 1 will identify a 20-foot area that will have three rows of trees planted 6.5’ feet apart. The first two rows closest to the project boundary will be eastern red cedars and the third row will be sand pines. These trees will be planted 6-feet apart in each row.
The Buffer 2 will cover a 40-foot depth area with 6 rows of trees planted along the buffer. The first row closest to the project boundary line will be sand pine. The second row will be red cedar. The third row will be Sand Pine. The fourth row will be red cedar. The fifth row will be Sand Pine and the sixth row will be Red Cedar. These trees will be planted 6-feet apart along the 100-foot area.
The Buffer 3 will cover a 20-foot depth area with three rows of trees planted 6.5’ part. The first two rows closest to the boundary line will be Sand Pines. The third row will be Red Cedar and each of the trees will be planted 6-feet apart along the 100 foot area.
Commissioner Martin explained that he had concerns about a Sand Pine tree. This type of tree looks like a cork screw when it comes out of the ground and it has a life expectancy of 10-15 years. “I don’t think that a Sand Pine is a good tree of choice for this type of buffer,” he stated.
Mortenson and Duke Energy had representatives attending the meeting. The two companies explained that they would be responsible for the vegetative buffer and that it would meet the expectations of the Commission and the people of Gilchrist County.
Commissioner Martin made a motion to approve the Site Plan and vegetative buffer submitted by Mortenson for the Trenton Solar Plant. Commissioner Poitevint gave a second to the motion before the board approved the proposal by a 4-0 vote.
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The Commission again discussed the proposed rate increases for Hart Springs. The increases identify all aspects of the park including the different types of camping. The Commission discussed the rates for off season and peak season campers.
A group of campers currently staying at the Campgrounds attended the meeting to address the Commission about the increases. A fellow from Ohio that has come to Hart Springs each year over the past four years told the board that if they were going to increase the rates over 20%, they need to improve the Wi-Fi at the campground and make the swimming pool heated. Several of the campers from Canada, Wisconsin and Illinois told the board that Hart Springs is a beautiful place, we were attracted to Gilchrist County because the rates were reasonable. If you go up on the rates and don’t make the necessary improvements to the park, we won’t be back.
The Commission decided to adjust the proposed camping rates before the new rates go into effect March 1, 2020. Commissioner Martin made a motion to approve the revised Hart Springs rates and the new rates would go into effect beginning in March 2020. Commissioner Thomas gave a second to the motion in support of the changes. Chairman Gray called for a vote as the Commission approved the proposal by a 5-0 vote.
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The Commission discussed a No Wake Zone request from Suwannee County Commission for a 1500’ foot area from William Guy Lemon Park in Suwannee County to the mouth of the Santa Fe River where it flows into the Suwannee River. Bobby Crosby, Gilchrist County Administrator reported to the board that this area would be a part of Zone 8 that is currently a No Wake Zone in the Santa Fe River. Commissioner Thomas made a motion to support the request from the Suwannee County Commission for a No Wake Zone in this area of the Santa Fe River. Commissioner Poitevint gave a second as she agreed with the action by her fellow board member. The Commission voted unanimous to support the request from the Suwannee County Commission.
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Gilchrist County finds issues in the wall involving replacement of old courthouse windows. Mr. Crosby recognized Paul Stressing of Paul Stressing Associates, Inc. to address the board to explain in detail the problem that was found when a window was removed from a second story wall of the Gilchrist Courthouse. The engineer explained that the older design brick walls didn’t have a wood interior to fasten and anchor the windows too. When the window was removed, the brick wall was the only structure left in place. The contractor working on the project also found asbestos in the exterior window caulking and lead in the framing structure of one of the outside windows.
The contractor stopped work on the project until the engineer and contracting group could work out the details on how to go forward to complete this project. Mr Stressing reported to the board that Option A estimate from the contractor to complete this project is an additional $49,000 and would take over 20 additional days to complete the project. Stressing also told the board that Option B involved the window installation clips with General Conditions with Gilchrist County being involved in the construction project would cost an estimated $20,000.
Commissioner Thomas made a motion to approve Option B on the window installation and have Gilchrist County involved in the construction renovation project. Commissioner Langford gave a second to the motion before the board approved the action by a unanimous vote.

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