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County planning recommends ordinance amendments

Addresses decommissioning solar, wind energy facilities

The county planning commission is recommending approval of several amendments to the subdivision and land development ordinance, including one that updates regulations for decommissioning solar and wind energy facilities.

Commission members voted Wednesday to recommend approval of the amendments to the county commissioners. The planning commission will hold a hearing and accept public comments on the amendments before sending them to the commissioners.

The proposed amendments would help streamline the ordinance, said Mark Gordon, county chief of economic development and planning.

Joel MacKay, county planner, said the proposed amendments were the result of a review of the ordinance.

The solar and wind facilities ordinance applies to large facilities, and not rooftop units that are regulated by local ordinances, he said. The number of inquiries the planning office receives about solar energy facilities has been increasing, he added.

The proposed amendment to the section of the ordinance that governs decommissioning solar and wind energy facilities would require the owner or operator to include a decommissioning plan with their land development application.

The plan must indicate that decommissioning will be completed within 12 months after the end of the useful life of the facility. A facility is at the end of its useful life if it does not generate electricity for 12 continuous months, according to the ordinance.

Estimates of decommissioning costs have to be included in the plan and provided to the county at every fifth year anniversary of date the land development plan was approved, according to the amendment.

That amendment would change current language in the ordinance that requires estimates to be submitted to the municipality after the first year of operation and then every five years.

The section of the ordinance that requires owners or operators to post a decommissioning bond would be amended to require the bond to be no less than the net decommissioning cost estimate, or 25% of the decommissioning cost estimate. The net decommissioning cost estimate includes the salvage value of equipment.

Legislation creating statewide rules for decommissioning solar and wind energy facilities is under consideration in the General Assembly, MacKay said.

Board members said they didn’t know if a state law would supersede the county ordinance even if the ordinance was more strict than the law.

The other proposed ordinance amendments would require the county planning department to verify the completion of conditions attached to approved subdivision and land development plans; require approval from the host municipality, its sewage enforcement officer and the state Department of Environmental Protection for the location and type of on-lot sewage systems; and require developers to apply for and receive approval of a new subdivision to remove the non-building designation from a lot once sewage service is provided.

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