09/01/14 — Solar farms back on agenda

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Solar farms back on agenda

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

For the third time since January, Wayne County commissioners Tuesday will tackle how the county will cope with the proliferation of solar energy facilities.

The first two attempts to come up with a zoning ordinance ended with commissioners instructing County Planner Connie Price to try again.

In both instances, commissioners called the proposal too restrictive.

Local residents who are involved in solar energy projects also called the county's proposed ordinance too restrictive during a February public hearing.

After the second attempt last month, Price was asked to compare the county's proposal with a template ordinance prepared by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association and the N.C. Solar Center.

That comparison will be made at Tuesday's meeting, which gets under way with an agenda briefing at 8 a.m. The official meeting starts at 9 a.m. Both will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Also working on the template were representatives of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, N.C. League of Municipalities and School of Government, city and county planners, state agencies and solar energy representatives.

The objective of the county proposal is to preserve its aesthetic quality and the physical integrity of land in close proximity to residential area. It also seeks to protect and enhance the economic viability and interests of county residents.

The template's purpose is to "facilitate the construction and installation" of solar energy systems.

The county proposal would require a 100-foot setback from roads and 50 feet from a fence. If an opaque fence is installed, the setback may be reduced to 20 feet.

The facility would have to be at least 150 feet from any residential area, building or church.

The template's setbacks are 50 feet on all sides and a 100-foot setback from any residential dwelling other than the owner's on a working farm.

The county proposal would require a minimum landscape buffer of at least 50 feet. The template says only that the buffer required will be determined by the "applicable zoning district or development standards."

In other business Tuesday, County Manager George Wood will make a recommendation on a funding request by Eastpointe.

Eastpointe did not submit a budget request before the current budget was competed.

At the budget public hearing, Eastpointe Director Ken Jones presented the following amounts: $225,000 for a walk-in clinic at The Waynesborough Family Clinic; $100,000 for an integrated health care system within Goshen Medical Clinic; and $45,000 for the Family Drug Treatment Court.

Commissioners reduced the amount to $42,000 and Wood recommended the same amount for fiscal year 2015 to cover the Family Drug Treatment Court.

However, Jones is calling that level of funding into question citing state and federal law.

In a memo to commissioners, Wood recommends keeping the funding at $42,000 for 2015 with no additional funding.

The board also will consider approving a motion Tuesday to convey the county portion of ownership of the Mount Olive Airport to the town of Mount Olive.

The property would be conveyed at no cost. Also, the county would agree to continue to fund the airport at not less than the currently budgeted amount of $33,281 for fiscal years 2015 through 2017.

Those budgets will be adopted by the current board of commissioners. After that, the funding would be subject to the annual budgetary process of the county, and the parties would discuss the appropriation in "good faith" each year.

The Mount Olive Town Board already has approved the agreement.

Also on the agenda are:

* A motion to approve engineering contract for drainage ditch permitting and cleaning at the Wayne Executive Jetport

* A presentation by Shelton Smith, the county's former buildings and grounds superintendent, on the history of the courthouse bell located in the courthouse atrium.

The consent agenda has three items -- applications for elderly or disabled tax exclusions; disabled veterans tax exclusions and property tax exemptions.

Public comments will be at 10 a.m. when people will have four minutes to speak on their topic of choice.