SPENCER COUNTY — At the Tuesday, May 16, commissioners meeting, applause was heard throughout the courthouse as the Spencer County Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution 2023-04, a resolution for moratorium on Commercial Solar Energy Systems (CSES) in the county.
This action comes as a result of many Spencer County residents expressing their concerns with talk of thousands of acres of land being leased to solar companies near the Luce Township area.
The resolution explains how the county has been subject of an extreme amount of interest in development of Commercial Solar Energy Systems (CSES) and the commissioners believe that — based on the rapidly changing demand for CSES and the change in scope, size and total impact on the county — there should be additional evaluation and study of existing and future CSES before any more systems are approved.
The resolution notes how this will not impact solar energy systems installed by individuals and businesses for their own use, also called Accessory Use Solar Energy Systems. The resolution will not apply to any CSES, which has been permitted by the Spencer County Board of Zoning Appeals as contingent uses (i.e. the Grandview solar project).
The next step is for the Spencer County Advisory Commission to amend Ordinance 2021-11 for the purposes of imposing this one-year moratorium on CSES as directed by the Spencer County Commissioners.
This resolution states that Ordinance 2021-11 should be amended to suspend said ordinance for a one year period as it applies to CSES in order to give the county time to further evaluate and analyze the impact of CSES development on the county and their compliance with the Spencer County Comprehensive Plan and Indiana Code.
One Spencer County resident, Jeremy Kincaid, explained he became involved after someone was surveying for solar on the land adjacent to his. Through research of public county records, he discovered that if the projects went through, his property would be surrounded on three sides by solar farms.
While Kincaid is not against renewable studies of energy sources, he feels that the quick nature of the leases being signed and recorded in the county is setting the county up to have long-term negative impacts.
He expressed how this moratorium gives the commissioners and the community a chance to sit back and take a look at the large-scale commercial solar project that is trying to be put into place.
The Grandview solar project was also addressed at the commissioners meeting. One matter of business was in regards to the approval of a location fee for the Grandview project.
The Spencer County Planning Commission previously voted to charge $200 per fenced in acre for the permit location fee. The Grandview project is approximately 350 acres.
Now, it is up to the commissioners for their approval. The project owners must purchase these permits before the building process begins.
Commissioner Tom Brown made the motion to approve the $200 location permit fee. No second was made on the motion.
Commissioner Heather Gries made the motion to change the location permit fee to $1,000 per fenced in acre. Commissioner Jim Seiler seconded the motion. The motion carried.
Bartley Higgins with Ames Construction presented before the council requesting approval of the Grandview Solar Project decommissioning plan. This request was tabled at the previous commissioners meeting to allow time to review the document.
Commissioner President Tom Brown made the motion to approve the Spencer County decommissioning plan agreement with Grandview Solar project. The motion failed due to lack of a second.
A motion to table the approval of the decommissioning plan was passed.
Commissioner Seiler expressed his concerns with the plan, saying he would like some questions answered before approval is considered.
Town of Richland Attorney Bruce Cissna and Town Council President Dan Kincaid presented on their request to set up a buffer zone outside of the town of Richland. This comes about as the town is working on their comprehensive plan as well as merging with the REO Water system.
Commissioner Seiler made the motion to approve a two-mile buffer for Richland, a two mile buffer around all county well heads, and a two mile buffer around all schools in Spencer County.
The town board would need to send their zoning ordinance with the two mile buffer to the county planning commission who would then forward it to the commissioners.
Attorney Cissna added that he believed it would be appropriate to include the buffer zones within the county’s solar ordinance.
Commissioner Gries seconded the motion made by Seiler. The motion carried.
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