Skip to content

‘Widespread Public Oppositon?’ — By Tommy Purser

That’s the phrase Joint Development Authority Chair Bo Reese used to describe the opposition to the proposed Brooker Field solar farm the Gainer family and NextEra Energy hope to build in the Brooker community north of Denton. In fact, he used that phrase twice in what appeared to be an attempt to fight the project.
In my 50-plus years of covering the news in Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County, I’ve seen a number of proposals that were met with “widespread public opposition.” The Brooker Field solar plan hasn’t generated even close to that level of opposition. It is far from being widespread.
I remember when the County Commission proposed to go to door-to-door trash pickup, eliminating the Dumpster sites sprinkled around the county. Now that idea was met with widespread public opposition. It was standing-room-only in one of the second floor courtrooms at the courthouse.
I also remember when an out-of-towner came here to try to sell the public on a mega-landfill site near Denton. The plan called for dumping trash from surrounding states — not surrounding counties but surrounding STATES — here. It was standing-room-only at what was then the middle school lunchroom for that “widespread public opposition.”
And when then-State Representative Bayne Stone planned to unilaterally expand Hazlehurst’s city limits through legislation in the Georgia General Assembly, it was standing-room-only-and-out-into-the-streets around city hall for the widespread opposition that idea generated.
And how about the time the Board of Education came up with the idea of a year-round school year. That opposition was pretty widespread as well.
But here’s the thing: It appears to me the current opposition is not so much against the NextEra project, as against some company coming here and running roughshod over neighbors like the Silicon Ranch experience. The people who got up in arms about how Silicon Ranch’s solar panels encroached on their private property, were justified in their concerns. They were right to be upset.
So were the County Commissioners who formed a Solar Committee to come up with an ordinance to insure that type of thing didn’t happen again. Among the action they took was to require a 300-ft. buffer zone to ease the impact solar farms would have on surrounding properties. And Next Era and the Gainer family were also sensitive to the concerns of their neighbors by incorporating a 600-ft. buffer zone, twice the distance called for in the ordinance.
And the plans don’t call for huge fields of solar panels like with Silicon ranch. In fact the panels will be spread out on a number of smaller tracts, each with the 600-ft. buffer zone.
The Gainer brothers and NextEra are trying to do this project the right way. There’s no way everyone will be pleased. But I suspect the displeasure will not be “widespread.”

Leave a Comment