Last Thursday night the Marshall County Plan Commission implemented a moratorium on battery storage facilities.  The moratorium is for one year or at the completion of an ordinance for the battery storage systems, whichever comes first. 

During last week’s meeting, Deb VanDeMark again urged the County Plan Commission to implement a moratorium on large-scale solar projects.    

VanDeMark gave members a copy of the Indiana Code which says the Plan Commission may initiate a moratorium or that any participating legislative body, being the County Commissioners could initiate one too. 

Plan Commission President Dave Hostetler said, “But I thought anything we do has to be approved by the commissioners.” Deb said she was just trying to explain that both the commissioners and or the plan commission can initiate a moratorium. 

VanDeMark also gave members a copy of suggestions for consideration to improve the county’s ordinance already in place.  She also gave them a list of suggestions created by Ed Allen who served on the county’s committee that created the solar ordinance.   Deb also gave them Plan Commission Basics created by Dearborn County.  She said, “One of the things that is really important about your job is listening to the community and the citizens.” 

The final handout VanDeMark gave members of the County Plan Commission was a map found on the property across from Mr. Allen’s property where there is a proposed battery storage facility.  She told plan commission members there had been three environmental vehicles at the site and Mr. Allen’s son talked with them and when they left a map was found in the yard.  Deb said it was a map of the site and her concern was that the map said Battery Storage Site, Culver Indiana Phase II.  To her, this indicates the project is continuing to move forward. 

Plan Commission member Chirs Klein explained that a Phase 1 study is a desk-top study, and a Phase II is where they go on-site and investigate it in person.  He said, “It’s part of the environmental process.”

VanDeMark reminded the plan commission that the current solar ordinance needs updating since it was adopted in 2020 and it doesn’t follow the county’s comprehensive plan that says they need to preserve the agricultural land in the rural parts of the county. 

County Plan Director Ty Adley then gave his presentation which included a detailed comparison between the Indiana Code on solar and the current ordinance the county enacted in 2020.

The comparisons included setbacks, maximum and minimum height restrictions, buffers, drainage, lighting, access, floodplain, decommissioning, fencing, signage, system components, and more.  The Marshall County ordinance has 18 additional regulations than the state code.  It also showed that the state code has four regulations not in the county’s ordinance.  Those items include glare, signal interference, sound level limitations, and force majeure events.

Members of the County Plan Commission discussed the various items and determined they wanted to add the four items the state has in the local ordinance. 

The plan commission asked Plan Director Ty Adley to continue his research by looking at a variety of setbacks from surrounding counties but also with counties that have industrial solar in place. 

Several members of the plan commission said the county already had a 2-year moratorium on solar and the current ordinance is more restrictive than the states.  They felt the plan commission could review the current ordinance and make modifications without putting a moratorium in place.

When asked for an approximate time for making amendments to the current ordinance the plan commission felt that within the next 2 to 3 months, they would be able to present recommendations on changes to the current ordinance.  It was also noted that all changes wouldn’t have to be modified at the same time, they could present the commissioners with recommendations more than once in the coming months.