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Tracy Pyles: Now Augusta County leaders seem to be trying to ban the sun

Tracy Pyles
solar native flowers
After a second growing season, Virginia native flowers surround solar panels at Cople Elementary School in Westmoreland County.

The Augusta County Planning Commission recently gave a negative recommendation on a proposed solar farm. It is now being sent to a Board of Supervisors that takes joy inserting itself between the people and God’s beaming of life-affirming sunlight. All men and farmers have done just this since time began without the meddling of empowered busybodies.

Solar energy use, on your own land, should not be controlled by the government. It needs to be simply, “by right.”  “By right” is an old concept that we all should miss. The idea that there are things so morally obvious, so right, that questioning is irrelevant used to be highly valued. That nothing can be done today without debate by the authorities is dehumanizing.

Grass growing is, to a point, “by right”. When I was young, having backyard chickens was “by right,” not so much anymore. As I write these words, I struggle to think of anything we are simply free to do.

How has this happened, and is it a good thing? “Weariness” and “no.”

Fighting city hall (Supervisors) requires a stamina matching that of a Golden Retriever fetching a tennis ball. And every right we forfeit to inflated egos, is belittling.

Please explain to me how putting passive sunlight collectors in a field harms anyone? It is far less interfering with neighbors than the process of field preparation, planting, spraying, harvesting, and transporting of crops. We appreciate and permit those effort and products that fill our dinner plates as necessary, just as energy is necessary.

While some may find a field of metal stalks as less pleasing than black angus on green fields, or corn “as high as an elephant’s eye,” these aren’t the only possible eventualities. One of the Planning Commissioners, a fellow 1966 BGHS graduate and former Supervisor, Larry Howdyshell, once lamented to me on another coming housing development of it being “the last crop.”

This life-time farmer voted to approve this solar initiative.

Voting against was one of the most inflated county egos, Carolyn Bragg. As both a Planning Commissioner and County Supervisor, Ms. Bragg has deemed her opinion so nice she gets to vote twice.

Bragg has long shown an affinity towards tax increases and housing developments. She once supported county taxpayers providing a $7 million sewer line from Stuarts Draft to Lyndhurst. This sewer line would straggle housing all along its path through the most fertile, and water-rich, land in Augusta County, the state.

In her quest to make development as available as possible, she now wishes to turn “property rights” into “government obligation.” The project’s landowner is not being allowed to use her land as she sees fit, because it will cost future developers more money.

As I read all the pros and cons as identified by staff, I had a sense of dread that I had once been a part of making the simple so complex. The Comprehensive Plan is now seen as more law than guide as it is designed.

The simple hope to make 23 acres more profitable, so as to allow the continuance of other agricultural pursuits, seems so very logical and practical that debate seems illogical, impractical.

The county doesn’t need to follow all the toxic overreach of other counties, Richmond and Washington. Our supervisors are already following the worst features of other governments in over-taxing and citizen censuring. And now Planning Commissioners feel free to deny our landowners the right to make a living off their land.

Later today I intend to go down to the river, take off my shirt, and enjoy the burn.

We need to memorialize more “by right” freedoms so as ensure Ms. Bragg isn’t empowered to come down to my stretch of Jennings Branch screeching: “oh no you don’t.”

Tracy Pyles is a former chairman of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.