Big Solar & Landowners: Values, Priorities & Perspectives, Worlds Apart
Tuesday, January 22, 2019, after canceling their participation in a landowner meeting, Pattern Development held an open house at the Canton Civic center. Landowners and community alike came out to see building plans for the 964 leased acres, and to ask questions.
Pattern Presents With a Panel of Their Specialists:
- Kevin Wetzel: Project Development Team; San Francisco, California office
- Steve Malanowski: Construction Manager for Solar; San Diego, California office
- George Hardie: Director Business Development for Pattern North America; Houston, Texas office
- Deann Lanz: Director Land Group; Houston Texas office
- Jon Forrester: Director of Solar Development
- Allen Wynn: Senior Manager of Environmental & Natural Resources
What became clear from the open-house, is that the values and priorities that drive the solar company and the landowners differ radically. Pattern Development seemed to think that if they could bring the landowners around to their perspective, help them understand, then there would be a meeting of the minds.
This San Francisco based company, with an office in Houston, appeared bewildered as to why the landowners living in the country, don’t appreciate what they want to bring to the community. After all, they offer plenty of incentives for the community to welcome them. For example, they project that over the next 25 years, the CISD (Canton Independent School District) is estimated to receive 22 million dollars in tax benefit. Likewise, over the next 25 years, the county is projected to receive 9 million dollars, and the state 5 million dollars. The solar company expressed the desire to donate to local good causes. They mentioned, as an example, little league and the Whitton Volunteer Fire Department.
Two significant quotes from George Hardie:
To the community-at-large, the financial benefits that Pattern Development may bring to the community may sound wonderful. To the landowners, however, the installation of a solar plant threatens their way of life. This may sound dramatic, but it is clear, this was the sentiment conveyed. A couple of quotes from George Hardie, Director of Business Development for Pattern North America, and two of the landowners, best make the point that the priorities of both are worlds apart.
“I know there’s a lot of you here tonight that are worried or upset, and don’t like this project. But I hope you’ll be open-minded. I think we can bring great things to this community.” … “We think we can be good neighbors. We think we can address all legitimate concerns regarding this project.”
“I truly believe that the vast majority of concerns about this project are either uninformed or misguided. We’ve heard some legitimate issues tonight from some nearby landowners, who have every reason to be concerned. As Deann mentioned, we are working hard to address them. We are happy to have one-on-one meetings with all those people to address their concerns. But I think we can be good neighbors, and this project can be a benefit to the whole community.”
Two significant quotes from Landowners
A gentleman asked Hardie what was it that the landowners didn’t know, that once they knew, would change their minds. Hardie talked about the fact that questions were answered on things like the impact to roads, how taxes on projects like this are a source of revenue, concerns about the needs of the Volunteer fire department will be addressed, the benefit of donations to good causes like the little league field, and so much more.
Clearly Articulates the Difference in Priority
The gentleman went on to say: “I’m from Houston, the first 40 years of my 42 years. I moved my family to the country two years ago. I think maybe where the disconnect is, roads are not our priority like they are in Houston and Dallas. Potholes-you won’t buy a house on a street that’s tore up. That’s not the case here. We moved here for the quiet, for the beautiful, and for the tranquility. I think that’s where the disconnect is. I think you are going to have trouble showing us the benefits we don’t understand because we are not living here for the reasons that you are living in Houston and Dallas. [lots of applause] If you go into a little district in say Houston’s ISD that has financial issues, they’re going to be more open to this. It’s important to them – their schools. That’s not here.
Your arguments, the benefits you’re trying to tell us, don’t fit the county your putting them in. Because it’s not our priorities. [someone in the audience yells out that money isn’t everything.] You think they are our priorities. That’s why you’re saying the benefits and that we don’t understand, and that’s why we don’t want you here. That’s not the case. We do see the benefits. And sure, everyone wants them. But they’re not our priorities like they are in the big city. The quietness, the peacefulness, and the generations – I’ve lived in Houston for 40 years, but my family has had property out here forever. So, I understand the generational pass-down. No matter how pretty you make them [solar panels] they are eye-sores…that’s not why we live in the county. That’s why we moved out of the city. [more applause]
Priority is Lifestyle, Even Over Her Investment
A teary voiced landowner says: “I am devastated. I’ve cried many tears, because you are interrupting my lifestyle…I think it is very sad that 20 miles up the road from me, is flat ugly black land. I wish y’all purchased that. With that said, I am selling my home. We built our home with our own two hands, poured every dime into it. I don’t want to be here for this project. It’s not because I’ve been misinformed. An industrial park’s going into our rural neighborhood. It’s not what we moved out here for. We wanted to retire here, wanted to die here. We saved all our money, paid cash for our house, build it with our own two hands. And now we are leaving it for someone else, because there is nothing you said here today that makes me want to stay.”
These quotes from both the company and the landowners show how vastly the company’s values and priorities differ from the landowners. The landowners want to keep their country lifestyle, with all its peace, beauty, and freedom. Pattern Development purchased the project with the intent to build. The request of the landowners to leave their area, doesn’t fit into that equation.