The Marshall County Commissioners did not impose a moratorium on the large-scale solar farms as requested by Deb VanDeMark on Tulip Road and Paul Levett from 18th Road.
In her statement to the commissioners, VanDeMark said the current ordinance is outdated with the Plan Commission and they want to recommend changes. She reiterated that the concern is only for large-scale solar farms. She said, “Marshall County citizens are concerned with the industrial solar farms and the push by some key players to get it through without public awareness.” She continued, “Many citizens have reached out to Paul Levett and I about the project and have the same concerns we have. Our Ordinance is weak. It does not protect our farmland, environment, adjacent landowners, or Marshall County against the 55-year leases.”
VanDeMark said Marshall County Economic Development Corporation said the project has a name, the Tamarack Solar Project. While Greg Hildebrand initially said the land would be zoned commercial, he clarified by saying the property where the solar farms are located would be assessed as commercial for property tax purposes.
The proposed sites are said to be marginal for farming, but VanDeMark said the land can produce corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, and maybe pastored cattle. She fears the farmland will be gone if it is turned into solar panels.
VanDeMark also said the county hasn’t addressed the Battery Storage projects in an ordinance and went on to say, “A commissioner signed a lease for battery storage. While they are separate projects, battery storage is not needed without solar farms.” They also mentioned House Bill 1173 was adopted this last session because of concerns about batteries. Senate Bill 33 was adopted to study the decommissioning and disposal of solar panels.
VanDeMark told the commissioners, “We need a strong ordinance that protects our agricultural land, increases setbacks, addresses how to handle contamination or destruction of property to neighboring property owners, protects property values and adjacent land owners, have material data safety sheets on every piece of the project, address utility-scale battery storage, make sure the bonds will cover cleanup and what happens if companies sell or file bankruptcy and a violation section.
County Commissioner Stan Klotz said he finds it ironic that the state is now going to do a study on the effects of solar. He said, “I sat on the committee that wrote that ordinance with 8 or 9 others. There was people that didn’t want solar at all. There was people in the middle and there was people that wanted solar and green energy at any cost so that ordinance was a compromise. In my opinion, it is weak but that was the compromise we came up with. I voted for it for the simple reason is we knew the state was trying to take home rule away from us or at least suspected it at that time. Since then, that’s been avoided but we needed something in place if home rule was taken away from us so we would have some protection for the county.
Klotz made a motion to “Hit the pause button and take time out for a moratorium and send this back to the Plan Commission for review and give the public a chance to respond.” His motion died for lack of a second so the motion died.