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Zoning and Land Development Amendment
Ordinance #ZTA19-03 to allow solar energy facilities consisting of photovoltaic panel technology to process as a principal permitted land use has been proposed by the Jefferson County Planning Commission to the Jefferson County Commission (JCC).
Solar renewable energy facilities site development standards must be provided in a concept plan including screening, fencing and decommissioning large arrays of photovoltaic panels, as defined in the amendment. In response to the proposed solar Zoning Ordinance, the County Engineering department recommended revisions to the Jefferson County Stormwater Management Ordinance, which will be addressed after the solar facilities amendment.
The JCC has scheduled a public hearing on file #ZTA19-03, an amendment to the JC Zoning and Land Development, to be held virtually (online) at 1 p.m. on Friday, September 11, 2020.
To access the online hearing, use this link. The ID for this virtual Zoom meeting is 820 1297 7509 and the passcode is 037057.
To submit written public comments, or to sign up to speak, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. JCV’s recommendations can be found below, or for a shortened version, you can download this PDF guide.
What You Can Do
Examine the amendment. You can review a copy of the draft amendment to the zoning ordinance, which includes the proposed revisions to the Stormwater Management Ordinance, here.
Write the Jefferson County Commission or sign up to give public comment. To do either, email email@example.com. Remember: changes to the Planning Commission’s draft text amendment cannot be made until after the public hearing on Sept. 11. At the close of the public hearing, the County Commission can either vote to adopt the proposed text amendment in current form, make modifications to the amendment, or refer it back to the Planning Commission for additional review.
Be aware of a second public hearing. This second public hearing will be held directly following the solar text amendment public hearing to obtain comments on the amendment to the Stormwater Management Ordinance. Revisions require 1) vegetal cover restoration without chemical fertilization; 2) panel modules situated on mild slopes allowing the passage of runoff underneath; and 3) an erosion and sediment control plan.
JCV recommends the County Commission revise the zoning ordinance guidelines modifying the proposed principal permitted use to a conditional use process.
A requirement for minimum or maximum acreage is undefined.
It is unknown how many facilities are planned, or their size or location.
Principal permitted and conditional land use table (page 17) recommended to be modified to include Solar Energy Facility, in the Jefferson County Zoning and Land Development Ordinance.
Large-scale solar utilities by right would be allowed as long as the developer’s concept plan incorporates the text amendment guidelines.
The facility construction could include accessory components of inverters, transformers, and connections to transmission lines and substations, following local, state and federal permitting regulations.
In proposal #ZTA19-03, as a principal permitted use, solar facilities could be located by right within 90 percent of county land zoned general commercial, highway commercial, light industrial, major industrial, rural, residential growth, residential-light industrial-commercial, and industrial commercial.
JCV recommends that as part of the conditional use for development, an environmental impact assessment is conducted and includes appropriate soil samples (borings) and geotechnical analysis.
Suggested conditional use requirements include: documentation of surrounding archaeological, historical and wetland designations; documentation of flood risk; documentation and reporting of identified sinkholes; documentation on loss of wildlife and species habitat; documentation of impacts on surrounding property owners including value, viewshed, noise and light.
A conditional land use may be permitted in a particular zoning district only after review by the Board of Zoning Appeals and upon issuance of a conditional use permit, subject to requirements of each district and/or other requirements of the Zoning and Land Development Ordinance.
The amendment defines these main guidelines that a large-scale solar installation of photovoltaic panel technology must meet:
Screening. Solar panels must be set back 100 feet from all external/perimeter property lines and from the edge of any state road. Accessory components require 25 feet setback from the perimeter. A 20-foot buffer screen (vegetative or opaque fencing) is required when panels are located within 200 feet of a residence.
Fencing. A security fence between 6 to 10 feet with secured gates shall be erected around the operating areas of the facility.
Decommissioning. An outline of the lease duration and plan for proper removal and disposal of the panel system, mounting structures and the reasonable restoration of real property must be approved. The facility must post surety to enable the decommissioning completion.
The development of alternative energy can be viewed with benefits and disadvantages as Jefferson County pursues the creation of and use of a variety of energy sources (including renewable energy) within the County while converting rural land to non-agricultural uses. The form and types of development that take place in the rural environment should be respectful of the rural culture and historic nature of the community.
Financial security for landowners; alternative option to residential development cycles
The renewable energy transition from coal for the county; no requirements of county services; commercial/industrial use tax payments
Solar is a quiet neighbor
Solar reduces CO2 typical during energy production
Agricultural land and pristine soils are removed from food production
Stormwater runoff causes erosion and degradation
WV legislation supporting power
Purchase agreements do not exist
Guiding Development Decisions
From Jefferson County’s Comprehensive Plan, Envision 2035, Appendix D – Goals and Objectives:
Goal #10: Maintain and Enhance Community Services and Infrastructure Capacity for Water, Sanitary Sewer, Storm Sewer, and Other Utilities; and Enable the Provision of Orderly and Efficient Services and Advanced Technologies
Objective #9: Encourage the creation of and use of a variety of energy sources (including renewable energy) within Jefferson County in ways that respect the character of the County.
From Jefferson County’s Stormwater Management Ordinance:
In 2014, Jefferson County adopted a new stand-alone Stormwater Management Ordinance that effectively regulates the quantity of stormwater generated by local development. This includes standards related to water quality and provisions for low impact design stormwater provisions.
These standards help to protect, maintain, and enhance the environment of Jefferson County and the public health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Jefferson County by controlling discharges of pollutants to Jefferson County’s stormwater system, and maintain and improve the quality of the receiving waters into which all stormwater flows, including, without limitation, lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, wetlands, and groundwater of the community.
A copy of Jefferson County’s Comprehensive Plan, Envision 2035, and the Future Land Use Planning Guide is available here.
Jefferson County’s Stormwater Management Ordinance is available here.
The Observer, https://wearetheobserver.com/solar-in-jefferson/
The Observer, 7/30/20 – Perspectives from a Local Solar Professional: https://wearetheobserver.com/perspectives-from-a-local-solar-professional/
The Observer, 9/1/20 – Sparking A Conversation: Local Farmers Discuss Large-Scale Solar Development: https://wearetheobserver.com/sparking-a-converstation/
Jefferson County Development Authority, 08/19/20 – JCDA recommendations on alternative energy amendment. Page 89 http://www.jeffersoncountywv.org/Home/ShowDocument?id=18801
The Journal, 08/06/20 – Commissioners mull solar facilities in Jefferson County, public hearing set for Sept. 11: https://www.journal-news.net/journal-news/commissioners-mull-solar-facilities-in-jefferson-county-public-hearing-set-for-sept-11/article_5200d0f0-81e5-5df0-a244-74dbea9b3f84.html
The Journal, 05/06/20 – Jefferson Co. Planning Commission approves solar energy text amendment for public comment: https://www.journal-news.net/journal-news/jefferson-co-planning-commission-approves-solar-energy-text-amendment-for-public-comment/article_cb1fde11-c349-572e-9411-c4899a24dbc1.html
Spirit of Jefferson, 8/26/20 – EXPERTS: Few Jefferson County sites can accommodate solar farms: http://www.spiritofjefferson.com/news/article_ebbbebec-e71a-11ea-a0bf-cbc866ea69b0.html
Spirit of Jefferson, 8/19/20 – Commissioners continue raising questions on solar farms: http://www.spiritofjefferson.com/news/article_697d4830-dca0-11ea-b096-37db25cf5340.html
Spirit of Jefferson, 7/1/20 – County planners give solar farms a favorable nod: http://www.spiritofjefferson.com/news/article_20731858-bbae-11ea-ab0c-c730a2eae913.html
Sierra Club, 01/20 – Clean Energy Works in West Virginia: https://www.sierraclub.org/sites/www.sierraclub.org/files/blog/2130%20Clean%20Energy%20Works%20in%20West%20Virginia_05_web%20%281%29.pdf
The Nature Conservancy -Solar Development in WV, A pathway to a brighter economic future: https://www.nature.org/content/dam/tnc/nature/en/documents/solar-in-WV.pdf
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