ANDERSON – The moratorium on the development of a large-scale solar energy facility in Madison County could be extended until 2021.
The Madison County Planning Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend to the county’s Board of Commissioners to extend the moratorium for one year.
Plan Commission member Tom Shepherd said the moratorium should be extended for a year instead of six months.
“We can change it at any time,” he said. “By extending it for a year we don’t have to come back for extension after extension.”
The current moratorium is scheduled to expire in January. It went into effect in July.
If approved by the county commissioners, the moratorium would run through Jan. 5, 2021.
Brad Newman, director of the Planning Commission, is reviewing the county’s solar energy ordinance that was adopted in 2017.
“It’s not feasible to have the review done by January,” Newman said. “I’m comfortable with the one-year extension.”
The goal is to have the review of the ordinance completed by the end of March with public hearings in April, Newman said.
David Kane, a member of the Planning Commission, asked why the moratorium only applied to solar energy facilities that were greater than 50 acres.
Newman said the Indiana Municipal Power Agency has developed smaller solar energy facilities in Anderson and Frankton.
“We didn’t want to exclude their energy development,” he said.
The moratorium was put in place for the county to consider changes to the 2017 ordinance.
“I have started collecting data and putting it into a useable format,” Newman previously said. “I have looked at 75 different ordinances.”
Newman said he has reviewed 27 solar energy ordinances adopted in Indiana counties and 18 from the state of Illinois.
“I want to make sure and changes will hold up in court,” he said. “I also want any revision to deal with each of the problems raised considering the current ordinance.”
The moratorium was put in place after the Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special use for the proposed $110 million, 120-megawatt Lone Oak Solar Energy Center on 850 acres in northern Madison County.
The Board of Zoning Appeals approved the special use with the requirement that the setback for the solar panels had to be 500 feet from the property line of a nonparticipating property owner.
The BZA approved a second special use for the project to include an additional 350 acres.
At the time of the approval, the project’s opponents raised concerns about a decline in property values and were seeking a guarantee, which could not be imposed because the county’s solar energy ordinance didn’t include the provision.
The Madison County Council denied a requested 10-year tax abatement for the Lone Oak project. Invenergy officials said the project is being delayed because of the denial of the tax abatement.
Newman said in July the entire ordinance will be reviewed including setbacks from nonparticipating property owners, the impact on property values and the possible leaching of hazardous materials.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.