OREGON – The Ogle County Board suspended its moratorium on solar development in the county for about 4-and-a-half hours Thursday night, long enough for it to vote on nine solar developments that had been awaiting a decision.
During a special meeting on solar in front of a packed Ogle County Board Room, Board members approved amended recommendations governing solar projects from an ad hoc committee created for that purpose. It then suspended the moratorium and approved five of the nine projects. Three of the projects were denied, and one withdrew its letter of application.
By midnight, the moratorium, put in place by the board in August and expected to last at least six months, was back in place.
The reason the moratorium is still in place is the board said there is still work to do on the solar rules for the county.
“I think there are a lot of things we need to resolve,” said board member Ben Youman. “We have a lot to do. We have some big questions we need to answer.”
The board did strengthen some recommendations made by the ad hoc committee, which covered everything from setbacks for solar project, to fencing, noise rules and screening the equipment behind vegetation.
The board approved up-front payments from solar companies that want to develop in the county that could cover the costs of eventual decommissioning and disposal of solar equipment.
The board also added language to the rules governing solar development in the county that put accountability on the landowners as well as the developers. Board members felt that the landowners should share the burden if there were problems with the projects.
And while the board added wording that all solar farms in the county must meet noise guidelines set by the EPA, not all board members supported that decision.
Board member Lyle Hopkins said the county did not need to open the door on a noise ordinance in an agricultural environment.
Board member Thomas Smith disagreed.
“Agriculture is agriculture,” he said. “This isn’t agriculture.
The board also agreed that no solar projects can be located within a mile and a half of a municipality unless the municipalities wants it.
“I think we should respect the citizens that live there,” Youman said.
When it came to approving the solar projects, the board followed the recommendations of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Projects that were denied can reapply.
With the moratorium back in place, no new solar developments will be considered by the county until it is lifted. It was put in place for six months, and is due to be ended or extended by February.