Public hearing July 19 for solar ordinance amendment chang
The Montgomery County Planning and Zoning Commission met on June 23 to finalize changes made to the solar ordinance.
After holding a public hearing, in which no oral or written comments were received, the commission members reviewed the changes that were approved at a lengthy meeting held March 30.
Among the amendments were:
• Ground Cover – The type of surface treatment to be used on the property to prevent erosion of soil. This may consist of grasses, gravel, asphalt, concrete, or any other options as approved by the Board of Adjustment.
• All ground cover options shall be approved by the Board of Adjustments. Apart from access roads, the county would like to encourage the use of animal friendly (domestic and/or wild) plants such as grass, clover, pollinator mix, prairie mix, or some combination of these.
• Signage – All community and utility scale solar installations shall provide the following at all locked entrances: A visible High Voltage warning sign, manufacturer’s, operator’s or installer’s identification signage, must be displayed; name(s) and phone number(s) for the electric utility provider; name(s) and phone number(s) for the site operator; the facility’s 911 address, GPS coordinates, and; a lock box with keys as needed.
• The Montgomery County Engineer’s Office has implemented a road use agreement for wind and solar projects. An approved road use agreement shall be included in the application for the special use permit for each project.
• Montgomery County Zoning Officials shall be granted access to the solar site to inspect any possible violations of this ordinance with 48 hours written notice. The notice shall list the concerns of the zoning officials, and a representative from the operating company or utility provider shall accompany the zoning official on his inspection. If any violation of this ordinance is found during the inspection it shall be documented. The facility operator will have 60 days from the date of the inspection to bring the site back into compliance or the special use permit will be nullified, and facility operations shall cease until it is brought back to compliance. If no corrective action is taken in 120 days, the facility operator shall begin decommissioning and restoration of the site to prepare it to be returned to its previous use.
One question that had yet to be answered was setting the maximum noise level. Zoning commissioner Barry Byers said one of the complaints involved single-tone noise from solar facilities.
“It has to do with the frequency and the bandwidth. If it’s really concentrated, it’s a more irritating noise to other residents than a broad frequency. It is a similar sound to tinnitus, and it’s monotone and can be irritating,” Byers explained.
Byers suggested that the ordinance contain a requirement for a sound study, and set a decibel level for any proposed solar farms.
Commission Member Vicky Rossander said there had been some standards set by other counties regarding the maximum decibel level.
“According to what I’ve read, it seems that somewhere around 60 decibels is the maximum threshold included in what most of these other ordinances are saying,” commented Rossander.
The commission voted on an ordinance change that setbacks for transformers, inverters, and other noise creating equipment shall be 500 feet from any neighboring occupied property, measured at the property line. In addition, audible noises caused by solar farm operation shall not exceed 60 decibels measured at the property line of any neighboring parcel with a dwelling at the time the special use permit is approved.
The solar ordinance amendments were approved by the commission. A public hearing on the amended ordinance is slated for 8:45 a.m. July 19 at the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors meeting.