After months of work, a proposed zoning ordinance amendment regarding large scale commercial solar is slated for a public hearing next week.

The proposed amendment would add language to Article 14 of the ordinance, setting forth regulations for commercial solar energy facilities. The idea is to regulate the establishment and operation of such facilities within the county. The issue is one that is hitting close to home as similar facilities have recently been proposed in Orange, Culpeper and Spotsylvania counties, as well as numerous other locations throughout the state.

The amendment would allow commercial solar energy facilities by a special use permit only. They would also be restricted to the M-1 zoning district, of which only a small amount of areas in the county apply. There would also need to be a feasibility study to ensure the amount of generated power could be supported by the electric grid and relevant electric company as well as a cost/benefit analysis describing the increase in tax revenues, local construction dollars, permanent jobs and costs on roads and other infrastructure. A view shed analysis would also be required from the perspectives of neighboring landowners and roadways. Power generated can only be for commercial uses and must be less than 50 percent of the annual total power usage of all county users. The applicant would also have to bear all costs for any increased staff time and attentions related to the project by county employees and submit a decommissioning plan meeting requirements set forth in the ordinance amendment.

The proposed amendment also sets forth conditions for location of such facilities, setbacks, safety and access and landscaping/appearance requirements.

Also included in the public hearing, will be an ordinance to amend the comprehensive plan to include the word “transmission” before “utilities” in goal five as well as the removal of language encouraging the development of appropriate solar energy facilities and other renewable energy technologies. Plus, there will be an amendment to change some definitions in the zoning ordinance to remove the phrase “public serving corporation” before “generating, booster or relay station.” The language appears in articles 8-2-9, 9-2-6 and 10-2-7.

An additional amendment of the zoning ordinance is proposed to remove an airport or heliport from special permit uses in the agriculture zones and move them to special permit uses in the conservation zones.

For more information, visit The public hearings will be held as part of the joint planning commission and board of supervisors meeting Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. at 414 N. Main Street, Madison.

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