OREGON – The Ogle County Board is putting a halt to solar farms for at least 6 months, until it has an ordinance in place to deal with the burgeoning industry.
“I think we made a mistake not to create a solar farm ordinance before we started to deal with them,” Chairman Kim Gouker said at Tuesday's meeting.
“On behalf of an awful lot of people here tonight, I want to thank you for approving the moratorium,” Mike Lalor of Stillman Valley said, speaking for most of the 100 or so people who crowded into the board room, many wearing round stickers that read “NO SOLAR PLANT.”
Lalor and many of his neighbors told the Zoning Board of Appeals that they did not want solar farms near their homes.
Three solar farms near Forreston, Mount Morris, and Davis Junction alreayd were approved; they will not be affected by the moratorium.
Three other requests for special-use permits to allow solar farms on Stillman Valley property zoned for agriculture that were on the agneda now will be put on the back burner.
The county has no zoning ordinances to govern solar farms and needs time to draw them up, said Planning & Zoning Committee Chairman Dan Janes, who recommended the moratorium.
“I have no problem with anyone in agriculture doing whatever they want,” Janes said. “But once you sign that lease, it becomes the county’s issue, and we don’t have the regulations in place to deal with large industrial electrical production like this.”
The moratorium, which can be extended an additional 6 months, was approved 21-1, but not before two motions were introduced to slow it down, but failed.
Board member Lyle Hopkins, who cast the no vote, wanted to table the moratorium for a month to allow the board to vote on the three requests.
“I don’t object to the moratorium, but it should be after the vote on the solar farms on the agenda,” Hopkins said. “These people have gone through the process and they’ve paid the money. They’ve worked hard to get this far.”
Gouker noted that he purposely listed the moratorium on the agenda before the vote on the special-use requests.
“If the moratorium passes, we won’t consider the solar farms tonight,” he said.
Board member Bruce McKinney wanted to rearrange the agenda to delay the moratorium vote until after the votes on the special-use requests.
The Planning & Zoning Committee will study regulations in other places and consider if solar farms should fall under special uses or be an amendment to the county's zoning code, Gouker said.
The Regional Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals will consider the committee’s proposal, and all three will make recommendations to the county board, which will have the final say.