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Marion County Solar Siting Hearing Update

Marion County Solar Siting Hearing Update

March 14, 2018 10:18 pm Category: Featured, French Prairie Reports A+ / A-

Board of Commissioners Rules this morning

We previously notified you that this morning the Marion County Board of Commissioners would be holding a hearing on the adoption of an ordinance amendment to put constraints around the existing ordinance (adopted as an extension of State law) that allows placement of commercial solar sites on a maximum of 12 acres of high-value EFU land.

Based on the results of a survey FOFP took with farmers among our members, we testified in favor of the ordinance which would have placed significant requirements on approval of a conditional use permit for these types of commercial solar placements.  66% of farmers surveyed said YES, the County should put constraints in place, and 71% said those constraints should be based on factors (as the ordinance contains) rather than an outright ban based on soil types.

The commissioners heard significant testimony in opposition to the proposed ordinance from the solar industry, and significant testimony in support of the ordinance.  However, many of those in support said the constraints needed to be more objective, and a number of farmers who testified said they would not take a position but encouraged the County to assemble a working group to develop rules that significantly protected EFU land.

To everyone’s surprise, the Board of Commissioners passed unanimously a motion to:

1. Not approve the amendment to the ordinance that was submitted.

2. Repeal the current ordinance allowing commercial solar siting with a sunset date of October 1.

3. Convene a working group to meet with the Planning Commission to submit a new ordinance to the County by October 1.

Commissioners Brentano and Cameron were in the position of “ban it completely or fix the rules” so they are using the moratorium for leverage, and the point of the end date is to force the “working group” and Planning Commission to have to work against a deadline to deliver a new ordinance within six months and not have it drag on.  

The Board of Commissioners made clear they want some side boards on the State law to protect high-value farmland, but also want to “get it right!”  They also want to make these changes in the near future, not wait for DLCD to do rule making in the next two years.

This may result in an even more restrictive ordinance for Marion County than that proposed. The risk is that there is now another venue for the solar industry to work the system toward the end of watering down the ordinance in their favor.

Source:  Friends of French Prairie 3.14.18

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