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DeKalb County makes progress on solar regulations

Planning and zoning committee hopes to make recommendation at October meeting

DeKalb County Community Development Director Derek Hiland updated the Regional Planning Commission on Thursday on the county's progress in drafting solar farm regulations. A first draft was presented and discussed at Wednesday's meeting.
DeKalb County Community Development Director Derek Hiland updated the Regional Planning Commission on Thursday on the county's progress in drafting solar farm regulations. A first draft was presented and discussed at Wednesday's meeting.

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County has made the first steps toward drafting ordinances governing wind and solar farms in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Derek Hiland, the DeKalb County community development director, updated the Regional Planning Commission on Thursday evening about discussions by the county planning and zoning committee Wednesday.

“We made it through our first draft of solar regulations,” Hiland said. “We got some very good, positive feedback from the language there, some direction to investigate and modify the language accordingly.”

Hiland said that the committee will again look to the solar regulations at its October meeting.

The committee decided to tackle the solar regulations first because it would be easier. Wind requirements will be considered after that.

“We realized there are a lot of comparable issues,” said Kevin Bunge, the county’s representative on the planning commission and also vice chairman of the planning and zoning committee. “Let’s get our feet wet on that, then move on.”

Bunge gave Hiland credit for writing the first draft that the committee discussed Wednesday.

“We just gave some input on tweaking we’d like to see or on things we weren’t 100 percent sure on,” he said.

Bunge said the planning and zoning committee was hoping to complete solar regulations next month and then recommend the ordinance to the full board. The committee itself cannot pass the ordinance.

Hiland estimated there were at least 10 solar installers around the county already engaging in conversations.

The regulations are coming after the County Board approved an 18-month moratorium on wind and solar farms in the unincorporated portions of the county in March. The moratorium required the county to create ordinances for solar and wind farms during that 18-month time frame.

If the county creates the ordinances before the 18 months time limit is up, the moratorium will be lifted early.

The moratorium did not apply to the Nextera Energy Resources wind farm, which received its special use permit in 2009.

In June, two special use permits were granted by the board for two test towers erected in South Grove Township to gauge the feasibility of a wind farm there. EDF Renewable Energy had applied for the permits before the moratorium was passed.

The Regional Planning Commission does not take action or pass ordinances itself. It is a body made up of representatives from the communities in DeKalb County that come together for the purpose of educating each other, Hiland said.

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