LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to spend $1.3 million to spray the entire county to ease the plague of mosquitoes caused by Hurricane Florence.
Health Department Director Bill Smith presented a plan to spray the population dense areas of the county or the entire county. The county will pay up front and seek funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state.
Gov. Roy Cooper offered to advance $324,000 from federal funds, and the county expects a 75 percent match from FEMA and perhaps more help from the state. It may take up to a year to get reimbursed.
Spraying, using the pesticide Dibrom in a solution of .60 ounces per acre, will begin this week and will take several days, Smith said. Spraying will take place early in the mornings and early evenings, and beekeepers will be notified.
Spraying half the county’s population dense areas would have cost $225,000 with a 75 percent FEMA match.
“We’ve got to make a decision tonight,” Commissioner Tom Taylor said. “I don’t see how we can spray only part of the county.”
The commissioners all agreed, and Taylor made the motion.
“Spray, spray, spray,” board Chairman Raymond Cummings said.
In other business on Monday, neighbors of a proposed 39-acre solar farm off Shannon Road opposed rezoning the property during a public hearing.
Neighbor Michael Humphrey said Shannon Road has had enough development, with existing chicken farms and spray fields.
“A solar farm will depress market value of our homes,” Humphrey said. “We are surrounded by chicken farms with a million chickens.
“Solar farms exist for only one reason, money.”
Kenneth Tickle, the nearest neighbor, wanted to know why the solar farm has to be so close to the road and in the view of his home.
“The view coming out of my door is the problem,” Tickle said. “This will affect me every day of my life, unless I move.
“Why can’t we move it off the road? I asked them, and they had no good answers. It’s money.”
Gray Fox Solar LLC offered expert testimony from two engineers, an appraiser and an attorney, saying the proposed farm would have no negative effect on property values and would meet all land use requirements. The site adjoins an industrial turkey farm with five large houses and is nearly 250 feet from the nearest home.
The company promised to improve the buffer over and above the Planning Board’s requirement, said Christine Valcourt, a property developer representing Gray Fox Solar.
The Planning Board, which approved the project on Sept. 10, asked that a vegetative buffer taller than earlier imposed by the county be erected, said Dixon Ivey, director of Planning & Inspections.
Jane Danforth, daughter of landowner Mildred Mercer, said neighboring farms had added value to their land and a solar farm is a value-raising opportunity with no environmental effect.
Chairman Cummings asked that a decision be delayed until board’s the next meeting to allow for a meeting between the company and local landowners. The board voted unanimously to approve his motion.
“Thank you for looking out for the little man,” Humphrey said.
The commissioners approved one conditional-use permit to allow for a small used car lot near Lumberton, but delayed another permit inside the town limits of Proctorville.
Taylor asked the landowner to meet with the Proctorville town board to get its consent. The lot in question is on Church Street and across the street from the Proctorville Baptist Church.
The county agreed to add “nuisance vegetation” to its land use ordinance. The new ordinance carriers $50-a-day fine for landowners who allow lots to become overgrown.
“This has become a big problem as people abandon homes and allow the lots to become overgrown,” Dixon Ivey said. “We don’t currently have anything in our ordinances.
At the end of the meeting, state Rep. Charles Graham asked the county to support efforts for work on the Lumber River that would prevent a repeat of hurricanes Florence and Matthew. He said an all-hands-on-board approach is needed with local, state and federal officials working to enable the river to handle more rain. He said he planned a flyover of the river soon to see what might need to be done, and that he has been in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The commissioners ended the meeting by acknowledging all those who went above and beyond in dealing with Florence, from first responders to volunteers and county workers who logged a lot of hours.
Earlier they also thanked Michael McDonald, assistant county attorney who is leaving that position.
Scott Bigelow can be reached by email at email@example.com.