County committee recommends changes to solar energy ordinance

NOW: County committee recommends changes to solar energy ordinance

SAINT JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- Saint Joseph County is one step closer to tightening regulations on major solar projects.

On Tuesday night a committee of the county council made a favorable recommendation on a set of amendments to their existing solar farm ordinance that more closely matches other counties in the state with large-scale solar projects.

There are still more steps to take before these changes are final, but several county residents were happy to see the proposed amendments to the solar farm ordinance move forward.

"There are so many questions, we're just not used to large-scale solar fields," says County Councilwoman Amy Drake.

As more solar projects eye Saint Joe County agricultural land for development, questions have risen about the impact these solar farms have on neighbors and property owners.

Councilwoman Amy Drake believes the current regulations are too lenient.

"There's very few setbacks, I think we have a 30-foot setback right now for solar, we also have something called buyright solar which means that if you have agricultural land, you can turn that into solar without going through the county council," explains Drake.

Proposed changes would require large-scale projects to go through public meetings and get permission to build on farmland.

Making the ordinance a bit stricter, Councilwoman Drake argues, can help put county residents at ease about future projects and give the council more time to consider them.

"We need to have some safeguards in place," believes Drake. "I think this gives us the initial safeguards, then we can work on a moratorium to see if we can do anything else."

In the next county council meeting on July 9th, the public will have the chance to speak on the proposed changes before the council votes.

Councilwoman Amy Drake says she plans to bring up the solar moratorium in that meeting as well.

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