After a meeting lasting over 3 hours, the Marshall County Plan Commission forwarded the amended solar ordinance to the County Commissioners.
The newly amended ordinance regarding solar farms in the county was drafted with input from County Plan Director Ty Adley, his office staff, the Marshall County Drainage Board, and the assistance of the Technical Review Committee (TRC).
In the interest of preserving agricultural property, the ordinance puts a cap of 12,000 acres for all solar farms in the county. For setback standards, the ordinance already has a 150-foot right-of-way setback and a 75-foot setback from property lines. It modifies the setbacks from an existing structure of at least 210 square feet to 325-feet. Previously it was 250 feet from any residence. The County Drainage Board also has in place a 75-foot setback from any regulated drain.
Under the section for buffers, the ordinance requires 4-season screening and the BZA can require a developer to add screening within 250 feet of an adjacent residence and or roadways. Maintenance of the buffering is required for the life of the project.
A drainage plan must be approved before building permit approval. The developer is required to repair any damage to the drainage system within a reasonable time.
The proposed ordinance amendments also include an Environmental Report, at the cost of the developer, to include third-party water and soil testing. The report must be approved by the BZA and submitted to the County Commissioners.
The developer must have an approved Emergency Response Plan and submit proof of notice to all mutual aid agencies. A decommissioning plan must be approved by the commissioner and recorded in the County Recorder’s Office before the issuance of a building permit.
During the public hearing, people from both sides of the issue discussed their issues with various parts of the proposed changes.
Setbacks were a hot topic for both sides. Those opposed to solar farms in the county want setbacks measured from property lines while those in favor felt the 325-foot setback from a structure was excessive.
The concerns for preserving farm ground were heard again and eminent domain was brought up during the public hearing. NIPSCO used eminent domain to acquire land for its recent project installing new large-scale powerlines across the county. Solar farms do not have that same right.
A section of the Indiana Code was included in the proposed ordinance amendment but Plan Commission members and some of the public feared it could take away the county’s rights, so it was removed from the proposal.
Board member Deb Johnson made a motion to implement a three-month moratorium to allow for more time to study the topic but was did not pass.
The County Plan Commission voted to recommend passage of the amended ordinance with the Indiana Code portion removed on to the Marshall County Commissioners. The motion passed with an 8-1 vote. Johnson was the lone no vote.
The County Commissioners will consider the amendments to the county’s existing solar ordinance.
County Plan Director Ty Adley will be the guest on WTCA’s What’s Your Opinion Show on Monday, January 8th at 9:30 a.m.. He will discuss the current solar ordinance and the proposed amendments. Tune to GIANT fm WTCA FM 106.1 or AM 1050.