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Board to consider more special exceptions in county’s solar ordinance

by Larry Chowning

Right now, solar facilities are permitted without special conditions in too many of Middlesex County’s zoning districts, said Jamaica District supervisor Wayne Jessie at the Middlesex Board of Supervisors June 4 meeting. Jessie said the Middlesex Planning Commission needs to review the county’s solar ordinance.

The board instructed Middlesex Director of Planning and Zoning David Kretz and the planning commission to begin work on a countywide solar ordinance addressing the use of more special exceptions. The use of special exceptions allows supervisors and the public to consider requiring further fencing and solar panel setbacks from the road or nearby homes. The county and public would have input in ways to make the solar farm more compatible with the neighborhood. 

Currently, there are four types of solar systems defined in the county zoning ordinance. They are:

  • Small system: A private solar energy conversion system, whose primary purpose is to produce power for residential applications, which has capacity to produce not more than 25 kilowatts of electrical power. 
  • Large scale: A private solar energy conversion system, whose primary purpose is to produce power for commercial and industrial applications, which has a total site area of ten acres or less.
  • Small utility scale: A solar energy conversion system, whose primary purpose is to produce power for local buildings or the local network, which has a total site area of less than 50 acres.
  • Utility scale: An energy conversion system, whose primary purpose is to produce power for consumption by a utility provider that has a total site area of more than 50 acres.

Small systems are allowed without any restrictions in all 11 of the county’s zoning districts.

Large scale systems are currently not permitted in Residential (R), Cluster Development (CD) and Waterfront Commercial (WC) zones, but are permitted without restrictions or conditions in all of the other zones.

Small utility scale systems are not permitted in the Dragon Run Conservation (DRC), R, CD, WC, Light Industrial (LI) and Manufactured Home (MC) districts. Small utility scale is allowed with special exception in Resource Husbandry (RH), Low Density Rural (LDR), Agricultural (A), Village Community (VC), and General Business (GB) districts.

A large utility scale system is currently only allowed in two zoning districts by special exception—RH and LDR.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newsstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 06.12.2019

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