FUD#8-Mr. Ross’s claims in his fourth document
Solar opponents continue to try and create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about Utility-Scale Solar. Our Mason County school superintendent makes these claims in his part3.pdf.
George and his friend Bill Marshall (signed a solar contract) are colluding in preparing Bill’s pro solar webpage.
Since I am Bill Marshall, I feel well qualified to give you my background and I hope you will consider it as you evaluate Mr. Ross’ accusations. I attended Washington Grade School, graduated from Mason County High School, and received a BS in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Kentucky. When I returned home In 1973 I was the seventh generation to farm Walnut Grove Farm. Dad and I operated a dairy and tobacco farm.
As many in those prior generations came of age, they opted to cut financial ties with the farm. This resulted in successive generations having to borrow the money necessary to “buy out” those aunts and uncles who cut economic ties. My father bought a quarter of Walnut Grove in 1952 from an uncle’s widow. In 1972 he borrowed funds to purchase another quarter, and I borrowed funds to buy the other half of Walnut Grove.
After five years of full-time farming, I realized that by working full time for local industries, my engineering degree would allow me to pay down my debt faster than if I farmed full-time. I will also admit that I enjoy working with folks in industrial situations on machines and computers more than I enjoy working around dairy cattle.
In the early 90’s, as my father’s health began to fail, the economics of all area dairy operations were becoming tenuous. (As of 2021, I believe only two or three dairies are still operating in Mason County.) In 1995 we held a dispersal sale for all of Walnut Grove’s dairy cattle and equipment. Walnut Grove has been cash leased from that point on, and since 1999 most has been no-till corn and soybeans in continuous rotation. (Please see https://solarformasoncounty.com/utility-scale-solar-saves-farmland/ to review the economic impact of various land uses in Mason County.)
I go into all this personal detail to provide context so you are better prepared to consider Mr. Ross’ attempt to impune my integrity. I am not an absentee landowner. Instead, I have worked for decades to pay down debt. I live on the farm and continue to feel deep ties to this land. I do understand that, like most farm landowners, the land can not be a charity. Only a very few have enough off-farm resources to own farmland purely as a lifestyle choice. (As a side note, I will point out that many of the solar opponents’ statements indicate their desire for their neighbors to bear the cost of owning farmland simply to support the solar opponents’ lifestyle choices.)
Let me next note that while I have worked professionally with Mr. Larger we are not “buddies”. I have no social contact with Mr. Larger. I do however admit that I do attempt to be civil, professional, and courteous with him, just as I do with everyone. Do Mr. Ross and the anti-solar folks find such civility so unusual as to be suspicious?
Computer programing and operation have made up a substantial portion of every industrial position I have held since 1978. I built my first website around 1994. Since my retirement in 2016, I have maintained a Linux server in the cloud. And at no charge, I have build WordPress sites for:
- Marshall Cemetery at Federal Hill (mcafh.com)
- Elizabeth Wallingford Old Washington Preservation Inc. (o-wky.com)
- the two college-level database classes I lead (cwmclass.com)
- Maysville Mason County Industrial Authority. (t-mky.com)
- (Note the MMCIA site is in the process of being moved to a new webserver that a paid contractor is developing for multiple websites under Mason Fiscal Court’s jurisdiction.)
- marshallsolar.com (note this site was created after the March focus group where I realized that the anti-solar contingent had no interest in compromise or having their perceptions challenged.)
I trust this demonstrates that I am perfectly able to quickly construct a website with no help from Mr. Larger.
Now let’s address what Mr. Ross seems to think is scandalous. I have in fact sold an option for a solar developer to lease on my property. My option was signed in 2018. This fact was duly recorded at the Mason County Clerk’s Office. In January 2019 the company holding the option sent this letter to the Maysville Mason County Planning and Zoning DivisionZoning-Conversation
Mr. Larger’s response did not seem to be one trying to help a “buddie”. Rather it was exactly what one would hope for, from someone in a magisterial position. Not trying to put a finger on the scale but instead simply answering questions on the current regulation and indicating that he anticipated a solar-focused regulation would be written in the future.
I doubt anyone who knows me could claim I have left any doubt that I favor Solar as a viable land use. I joined Citizens Voice of Mason County around 2016 because I understood their objective was to educate Mason County Citizens about current local issues. In early 2021 it became obvious that CVOMC did not want to discuss both sides of solar, but instead considered an anti-solar belief to be a litmus test for membership. In fact at a special called meeting, the group elected a new slate of directors, all of whom believed in the group’s now announced anti-solar creed.
With that background, lets address Mr. Ross’s first question. “Why would someone who is supposed to be “neutral” on solar, who influences zoning be working on a prosolar site?“
We were NOT discussing a pro-solar site. Note the link in question points to a page on cwmclass.com. Dale Stith told me that based on the concern building about the draft ordinance Mike Averdick circulated, that Judge Pfeffer had asked him if CVOMC would host a solar focus group to discuss appropriate solar regulations. Dale asked me if because of pandemic meeting restrictions, I was willing to use my Zoom license to host such a virtual meeting. I agreed if it was to discuss both sides rather than just be a let’s bash solar affair. He assured me that the focus group would be discussing both sides. I agreed and he told me that since he would be on the road for cattle sales I should coordinate with Judge Pfeffer and Mr. Larger. The email Mr. Ross references is where I sent my proposed zoom meeting invitation to Mr. Larger and Judge Pfeffer for their review. By this time passions were becoming evident and I did not want to publicize a meeting, which they would moderate, with material they found inappropriate.
Sadly Judge Pfeffer died the morning of our Feb 1, 2021 focus group. Because of his tragic death, the focus group was postponed. The March 19 focus group was simply the second attempt to hold the above-discussed focus group. It took that long to reschedule because we had to wait to find out who would be appointed to replace Judge Pfeffer, then we needed to allow time for Judge McNeill to acclimate to his new position.
Next Mr. Ross mentions that I am on the Mason County Board of Adjustments and seems to imply anyone who would consider a solar lease has demonstrated a lack of morals and or ethics. It is true that Judge Pfeffer asked me to serve on the Mason County Board of Adjustments, (at no pay), and I accepted. You can be assured that I will recuse myself from any case that affects me in a direct or indirect financial manner. Thus if the Acciona appeal (of Mr. Larger’s interpretation of zoning ordinances until there is a specific Solar section in the ordinance) should come before the MCBoA I will recuse myself, because that decision could have a financial effect on my ability to lease to a solar farm. (Note I would also expect any members of the planning commission or MCBoA to recuse themself if they own property next to a solar farm site and believe that solar farm will affect their property values.) I however retain my right to speak in such an MCBoA case, as serving on the MCBoA does not mean I forfeit my right to free speech.
While all members of the Planning Commission and boards of adjustments live in a house, all of us act on and discuss cases for other houses in the county. It seems to me that the logic for Solar cases is the same. I will also disclose that shortly after Judge McNeill assumed office, I explained my understanding of when recusal was appropriate and asked if he would like me to resign from the MCBoA. He said my reasoning and values seemed sound and declined my offer.
Mr Ross’s next point “March 23 George responds to a pro-solar farmer (Mike Miller} who e-mailed him. “I’m assuming you were signed up on the focus group last night but chose not to speak. I understand why, considering most people who spoke against solar wouldn’t be too friendly … rest assured, you have the opportunity to speak at a public hearing if you wish. Otherwise, I’d like to share your comments with the planning commission when the time comes.” Ummm, we are told we have to wait and speak at the public hearing but NEVER told George would be sure our comments were shared even if we didn’t’ speak!!!”
The last point of the widely circulated agenda of the March focus group stated “Anyone who wishes to make additional comments after the meeting can e-mail George Larger at email@example.com” this was added because Mason County lacks enough internet bandwidth in every area to assure everyone can effectively participate in a zoom meeting. It appears to me Mr. Larger was simply attempting to prevent a citizen’s bandwidth from controlling a citizen’s ability to comment. I would expect no less from a Mason County School or any other government-sponsored meeting.
Later it is implied that I am actively recruiting solar companies to locate in Mason County. This is categorically false, I have NEVER recruited a solar company to Mason County. Nor am I a Real Estate Agent or Solar land agent. The only landowners I have ever approached about entering a solar option are my immediate neighbors and a cousin. This seemed appropriate because I wanted them to be aware of the opportunity I am pursuing. I did not want to spend the next thirty years with them having hard feelings that I did not alert them to this opportunity. In each case, I simply provided them with a copy of my option contract and told them if they were interested to contact NORENCO directly. I received no commission or finder’s fee. I also had no part in any negotiation that occurred between them and NORENCO.
What I have done is to be vocal about my belief that well-regulated utility-scale solar farms can replace the now missing tobacco and dairy income in an environmentally sound manner which can help everyone in Mason County. My efforts have made me known to Solar Companies already working in Mason County and as they have approached me I have talked to them.
In reading Mr. Ross’s document I learned that Mr. Brown and I seem to agree about every citizen’s right to approach Planning Commission members, City Commissioners, and/or Fiscal Court members before a solar amendment is adopted. My lawyer has instructed me that until a solar regulation is adopted, it is every citizen’s first amendment right to approach their officials and express their views and concerns about pending regulations. Once the City Commission and Fiscal Cout adopt a Solar regulation then ex-parte rules will apply and citizens can only approach officials thru public meetings where all comments are “on the record”. I for one hope this alone encourages our officials to quickly begin the drafting and the adoption process, which has now been ongoing since March 2019.