AUBURN — Judging from those who spoke during Wednesday night’s commercial solar ordinance public hearing, there are as many county residents for the renewable energy source as there are against.

Local residents packed the DeKalb County Commissioners Courtroom Wednesday night as the DeKalb County Plan Commission took up the issue. After a 40-minute public hearing, the plan commission gave the new ordinance a “favorable” recommendation.

The ordinance will now move on to the DeKalb County Commissioners after months of work. The commissioners will vote on the ordinance at 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27.

Approval from the DeKalb County Commissioners will open up DeKalb County to solar energy companies looking to construct projects within the county. Those companies have already begun discussion with some landowners in the county, although no projects have been brought forth.

During the public hearing, some residents spoke in favor of the ordinance, including Larry Kimmel.

“I think it is a good deal from everything I have heard and seen,” Kimmel said. “It doesn’t give off pollutants. It is a way of life.”

Residents Bob Glick and Tim Maldeney also spoke in favor of the ordinance saying these projects would bring beneficial tax revenue to the county.

“I have not heard one word about it being beneficial to DeKalb County. I think it will drastically increase tax revenue,” said Glick.

Those who spoke against the ordinance had concerns about the effects of projects on property values, contamination and generally just weren’t in favor. One of the major issues raised by those in attendance including three solar energy representatives were setbacks placed on projects.

“How close is too close?” said Tina Krafft. “I am mostly concerned about decommissioning. Is there going to be any decontamination of the land?”

Another resident who wasn’t sure if he was for or against the project questioned the board on the effects of property values for those living in eyesight of a project.

“I think you guys are doing a good job. You are trying to protect everyone,” he said. “How can you create an ordinance without a property value study? I can’t find data to make an informed decision. I am for renewable energy.”

During the public hearing, representatives from Leeward Renewable Energy, Geenex Solar and Lightsource BP briefly spoke in favor of working with county officials and property owners as projects are brought into the community.

After closing the public hearing, the board decided to make one additional change to the ordinance before taking a vote. Setback restriction language was changed addressing several issues brought up during public comment.

Solar companies can now work with landowners and adjacent, non-participating landowners on setbacks. The 400-foot maximum setback can now be reduced if everyone is in agreement and a waiver is ok’d by the county.

Chris Gaumer, director/zoning administrator for DeKalb County, said companies can always apply for waivers for setback limits and height limits.

The DeKalb County Commissioners currently have a moratorium in place putting a hold on any projects in the county until the ordinance is complete and approved. The only current project that is underway is being done by Auburn Renewables, which is constructing a 55-acre solar farm southwest of Auburn on C.R. 19.

The construction of the project is allowed to move forward despite being outside of the city limits because it sits inside of the city’s light-industrial zoning district.

The complete revised ordinance can be found on the DeKalb County Developmental Services webpage.
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