ANDERSON — The Madison County Plan Commission has approved a proposed solar ordinance with a favorable recommendation to the Madison County Commissioners.

The Plan Commission on Tuesday conducted a public hearing in which most people spoke in favor of the new ordinance that puts conditions on the development of large-scale solar energy facilities.

The Madison County Commissioners have to vote for final approval.

The commissioners can approve the ordinance, reject the ordinance or make changes to the proposed ordinance.

If changes are made by the commissioners, then the ordinance has to be reconsidered by the Plan Commission.

County officials have been hoping to adopt a new solar energy ordinance ever since Madison County approved the proposed Lone Oak Solar Energy Center. The Lone Oak solar facility was approved in 2019 and the county has had a moratorium in place preventing large scale facilities in the county until a new solar ordinance is adopted.

The draft prepared by Larry Strange, director of the Madison County Planning Department, limits where a large scale commercial operation can locate with a special use and requires setbacks from adjacent property owners ranging from 400 to 450 feet.

Strange said a medium sized commercial facility can range from six to 75 acres and a large-scale facility can range from 76 to 400 acres.

The ordinance states a solar energy facility can’t exceed 400 acres and there is a three-mile neutral zone requirement.

Strange said a development for a large facility will require a rezoning to a designation as a high impact zoning district, of which none are currently located in Madison County.

He said the rezoning has to be approved by the Plan Commission and Commissioners and a special use has to be approved by the Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals. “This provides significant oversight,” Strange said. It includes a residential property value clause for single-family residences within three miles covering the start of construction and two years after operations begin.

Battery storage of electrical energy will require a separate permit.

The draft also includes a provision that no more than 10% of the prime farm ground in the county can be used for solar energy facilities.

A clause covers the decommissioning of the site with financial guarantees and an economic development agreement with the county to cover potential lost tax revenues.

Plan Commission member John Simmermon said the ordinance is something that county can be proud of in the future.

“This is an ordinance other counties will look at in the future,” he said.
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