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DeKalb County solar farm ordinance advances

Revisions being made; public hearing will be scheduled

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee voted to move forward to a public hearing on the solar farm ordinance it has been crafting since September. The ordinance, which tries to strike a balance between applicants and the surrounding properties, said committee Chairman Steve Faivre, D-District, was spurred on by the number of businesses in the county seeking permits.

“Without the ordinance, we would be dealing with the applicants on an ad hoc basis,” Faivre said of considering each applicant for a special use permit. The county had the same problem with wind farms, until it put a moratorium in place to create an ordinance for them, as well. The committee is tackling the solar panel ordinances first.

Community Development Director Derek Hiland said there are about a dozen companies making inquiries in DeKalb County for installing solar panels or solar farms.

“We’re still getting phone calls,” he said.

The committee meeting Wednesday discussed several small changes to the ordinance. Hiland said that while he’s been working on the draft of the ordinance, he has consulted with other counties to find out what their ordinances are like. But it is new territory for Illinois counties without a lot experience, or trial and error, to go on.

“A lot of counties are in the same position as us,” he said.

Hiland said that at a recent meeting in La Salle County, where a solar farm is near Streator, solar firms did not want counties to use that farm as an example.

“That’s not how it would fit in DeKalb County,” he said.

As the committee was debating the draft ordinance presented at the meeting, some changes were made. Rather than requiring a fence, for example, it was learned that most solar farms will install a fence as a deterrent against vandalism. Instead, the committee decided to define what the fence could look like, such as materials and whether there can be barbed wire.

“Can DeKalb County require no barbed wire?” joked committee member Craig Roman, D-District 6. Hiland warned that getting into the aesthetics of the fence could become subjective, but certain requirement can be regulated.

Faivre wanted language added that would mean the ground on which the farms were placed would have to continue to produce fertile soil. The ordinance allows solar farms to only be installed on land zoned A-1 agricultural.

“We’re trying to make this a soil positive event,” he said.

The date for the public hearing was not set at the meeting. Hiland will take the input from the committee and draft another ordinance to be discussed at the hearing.

“We want this to be as iron clad as we can, and still be open for business and residents,” said board Chairman Mark Pietrowski, D-District 3.

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