Pattern Development Doubles Down, Landowners Question Their Integrity
Tuesday, January 22, 2019, Pattern Development held an open house at the Canton Civic center. The stated objective, was to give the community opportunity to ask questions. Pattern Development also wanted an opportunity to share plans, build bridges, address concerns, and develop a working relationship with the landowners opposed to the solar plant moving into their neighborhood, and abutting their ranches.
Many questions were asked. Many answers were given. The values and priorities of Pattern Development and the landowners though, is so vastly different, that it is unlikely they will see this project through the same lens. For an in depth look at this topic, see The Northeast Texan’s Article: Big Solar & Landowners: Values, Priorities & Perspectives, Worlds Apart. The company sees it as a boon to the community. In contrast, the landowners see it as a great loss to their lifestyle.
At one point in the evening, several landowners in a row wanted to address the information Pattern Development wrote in a letter sent out to the landowners. For more details on this topic, see The Northeast Texan news article: Solar Company Pulls Out of Community Meeting: Sets Up Open House for January 22nd.
With this in mind, one of the landowners read the paragraph in question: “When we acquired the project we were surprised and saddened to hear that a small group led by a recent transplant from Dallas had organized to oppose the project. We immediately began reaching out to this group to identify and help resolve their concerns. Unfortunately, most of the individuals and parties (many of which are not local to Van Zandt County and nearly all of whom are not within the immediate vicinity of the project), are not interested in working with us to resolve any of the concerns.”
Pattern Development Doubles Down
After reading the paragraph, she then told the panel that the accusations in that paragraphe were a “slap in my face”. The room erupted with applause. Those referenced in their letter, were people whose land had been in the family for multiple generations. Specifically, some have lived on their land five and six generations.
Another key point, the letter said the organizer lived in Dallas. David Dunagan said he has never live in Dallas. His family has also owned land in northeast Texas for multiple generations. His description of his family history was also met with great applause. He concluded with, “It begs 2 questions: (1) is your research so bad that you put something like this out. And if your research is that bad, what is your research for this project going to be. Or, (2) if this is just a flat hit piece, we know how you are going to treat the citizens of Van Zandt county.”
The landowners wanted the panel members to take responsibility. Unfortunately, instead they doubled down with statements like: “I don’t think it’s fair to say that’s a hit piece.” … “With the letter, we have to defend ourselves, and we also are trying to put the correct facts out there.” Several shouted from the room that those were not the facts, that the paragraph was very deceptive.
How Is This Going to Benefit Me?
Several landowners asked, how is this going to benefit me? In a follow-up discussion between landowners after the meeting, one mentioned that this question was embarrassing. “Why should anyone benefit from the company any more than they would from the local gas station or grocery store.” The response was, “At least the gas station and grocery store provide a valuable service, and that service is a benefit we want and need.” The benefits the solar company espouse are things like, school bonds being paid down and donations to good causes. The landowners however, do not see that the benefits outweigh what they expect to lose.
Country living has a beauty and peacefulness that money cannot buy. As one landowner yelled out in the middle of another’s testimony over what will be lost, “money is not everything.” Pattern panel members shrugged off the concern over the view as not a “legitimate concern”. They insisted conversely, that berms, setbacks, and foliage will reduce view of the solar panels. They also said that the panels make no noise, though there will be a buzz from the substation.
Fear of groundwater and soil contamination
The topics of groundwater and soil contamination, or how the company would handle a weather-related disaster, frequently came up. Pattern Development insisted their panels are of a new technology that do not leach contaminants. In addition, they stated that were a tornado to hit the solar plant, and send panels flying in every direction for miles, they would see to it that the debris is cleaned up. Also on the topic of contaminants, they said they would use pesticides to control weeds and overgrowth around the panels. One landowner brought up the dangers of pesticides to health. They reiterated again, that they would consult with the AG Office and use approved pesticides.
Pattern representatives, at one point, discussed establishing a budget for each phase of the project. Included in the budget, according to panel members, is the deconstruction stage. In other words, when the solar plant has lived out its life, the company is required to remove all equipment. A landowner asked, in the event that the company does not last 40 years, do they have a bond set aside for this clean up? They answered in the negative; they do not have a bond set aside for deconstruction.
Follow up interview:
The Northeast Texan interviewed Allen Wynn, Senior Manager of Environmental & Natural Resources, after the event. We discussed the solar plant called Coronal Energy Essex Solar Center, who is responsible for an environmental mess in Essex County Virginia. That community is attempting to solve uncontrollable mud runoff on an already established, operational, 200-acre Solar plant. The mud runoff is impacting streams, bogs, and roads. Hence, the EPA is investigating.
The point of the discussion with Wynn was to see what he knew of Northeast Texas’ varied soils, since one of the panel members mentioned that 5 acres would be graded. Similarly, the situation in Essex County Virginia, might easily be repeated in Whitton, if the nature of the soil is not taken into consideration. In addition, what did he know of the way in which water can travel through underground gopher tunnels for great distances, during a high water-table, in the rainy season? Wynn is not versed on either of these topics yet. He said he will consult with the Ag office on both.
Photos by Susan Skommesa