Saturday, October 23, 2010

October Coupland meeting on Taylor and Elgin expansion

The October Coupland Civic Organization meeting will be the last in the series of presentations about the changing situation around Coupland. The CCO has heard from Taylor’s city manager and mayor pro tem and Pflugerville’s city planner. The group also has had a community round-table discussion about the situation. CCO directors have presented information about the small cities of Weir and Creedmoor and their experiences with incorporation.

Taylor and Elgin are considering the future of the area between them, which includes Coupland. Some residents who are close to Coupland but are in the Elgin school district have received letters from the City of Elgin asking them to voluntarily join Elgin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

On October 25, the CCO will present the Taylor/Elgin situation. Speakers will be Taylor City Manager Jim Dunaway, Elgin Mayor Marc Holm, Elgin City Manager Greg Vick, and Elgin City Planner Gary Cooke. The meeting is Monday, October 25, in the Fellowship Hall of St. Peter’s Church. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 7.

More on solar farm in Coupland area

Update on the 600-acre, $240 million solar farm at the intersection of Manda-Carlson Road and Felder Lane, about 3-1/2 miles west/southwest of Coupland:

On September 15, the Blackland Prairie Concerned Citizens Association hosted a meeting at the New Sweden Parish Hall to get more info to area residents.
RRE Solar, formed late last year, is the company doing the project. A consultant for RRE Solar, Angelos Angelou of Angelou Economics, said that they have not yet chosen a construction company. He said that when a company is chosen, RRE will put the concerns of the surrounding residents in the contract. He noted that RRE has purchased right-of-way for a line to connect the solar farm to the nearby LCRA transmission line and thus to the ERCOT grid.

They hope to break ground here in November; construction should take 2-1/2 to 3 years.

Clay Fischer presented the findings of Zephyr Environmental. Zephyr did not find any endangered species on the site, although nearby residents said they have spotted whooping cranes on their properties. Cottonwood Creek and a tank are on the RRE site. Fischer said, “All plant work will happen outside of these areas. RRE and Zephyr have developed stormwater pollution prevention plans to stop erosion during construction and operation.”

Fischer claimed that there were no cultural resources on the site or within one mile of the project boundaries. However, residents pointed out that the Carlson Community historical marker is across the road from the project, at the intersection of Lund-Carlson Road and Manda-Carlson Road.

Daven Mehta, CEO of RRE, explained that the solar panels will be 6 to 7 feet high, fixed at a 30 degree angle. Unlike some solar panels, these will not move, and there will be no noise. The panels will be set back from the property boundaries. There will be two fences with a gravel road in between, the fencing will be 20 feet back from boundaries, and the panels will be 50-70 feet inside. The fence and panels will be screened from view by berms and plantings of trees and shrubs around the property.

When asked about lighting, Mehta said, “We don’t work at night and only need lights for security.” RRE is considering new type of lighting that mitigates the brightness reaching neighboring properties.

At the previous BPCCA meeting, some attendees thought that the solar farm was not the worst project that could be put on this property. It is a large parcel that was owned by out-of-state owners, and some neighboring property owners were concerned that it was being considered for high-density housing or an Austin landfill.

Some adjoining property owners at the September meeting disagreed with the above analysis and are unalterably opposed to the solar farm. Some neighbors were considering having their own environmental study done.