08/04/14 — County to eye solar farms

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County to eye solar farms

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 4, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners on Tuesday will try again to come up with a countywide ordinance regulating solar energy facilities.

A first attempt in February ended with commissioners sending a proposal deemed too restrictive back to the county Planning Board for more work.

The revised ordinance will be discussed during a work session as part of the board's meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. An agenda briefing will be held at 8 a.m.

Both meetings are held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the Wayne County Courthouse Annex.

The county has been wrestling with the solar farm issue since the development of a number of farms around the county.

The county's current ordinances do not address solar facilities, and the few areas in the county that are zoned do not allow them. In non-zoned areas, only building and storm water permits are required for construction of solar facilities.

The Planning Board's initial try at crafting an ordinance was rejected following a public hearing this past February.

A required 300-foot setback from homes, schools and churches in the original ordinance was of particular concern to commissioners and developers. Opponents argued the 300-foot setback would require a large tract of land.

The proposed 100-foot setback from a public road and a 50-foot setback from a side property line did not prompt much discussion.

The new proposal calls for a 150-foot setback from any residential area, building or church.

It sets the minimum lot size at 10 acres when the solar facility is the primary use.

Some commissioners earlier questioned requiring fences and locked gates, but speakers at the hearing did not.

The board did agree in February on the need for roadside landscaping and possibly along areas adjacent to homes.

The new proposal also requires that the sites be fenced and that facilities in a residential area must have a landscape buffer of no less than 50 feet.

The buffer is not required for facilities in an area that is industrial, agriculture, timber or commercial.

A planted buffer is not required if an opaque fence is installed.

The proposed ordinance requires that site plans for solar facilities be approved by the county Planning Board.

The facilities would be special use only in areas of the county covered by the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Airspace Control Surfaces. Approval as a special use would be made by the Wayne County Board of Adjustment.

Also, plans for facilities located in that area would be sent to base officials for comment.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners will be asked to award bid proposals under the county's 2011 Community Development Block Grant Scattered Site Program. They include proposals for modular and manufactured homes to replace three dilapidated houses, asbestos abatement at two homes, demolition and clearance of three homes and rehabilitation of three houses.

Also on the agenda are:

* Approval of allocations of North Carolina Eastern Region's loan funds.

* A presentation by the Wayne County Crime Prevention Council.

* Approval of a resolution honoring Purple Heart recipients for the Aug. 7 Goldsboro/Wayne Purple Heart banquet and ceremony.

* A work session on the state Association of County Commissioners' legislative goals process.

Three of the four consent agenda items deal with tax issues. The fourth is an amended capital budget for the Grantham and Spring Creek middle school projects. The action is needed because of a typographical error in the original document.

The three tax issues include present use value, elderly or disabled exclusion and disabled veteran exclusion.

Public comments will start at 10 a.m. Citizens will have four minutes to speak on their topic of choice.