Aerial shot top view of solar panel photovoltaic farm

Aerial shot top view of solar panel photovoltaic farm

(Glenwood) – Mills County officials have added a little more time to work through final revisions of an updated commercial solar ordinance.

That’s according to Mills County Building and Zoning Technician Holly Jackson, who tells KMA News the county board of supervisors has extended the moratorium on commercial solar applications to the county through February. At the commission’s monthly meeting Tuesday, Jackson, along with Baird Holm Law Firm Attorney David Levy, presented several possible changes in an ongoing amendment process. Jackson says that one of the top additions introduced to the commission was a pollination scorecard for the ground underneath the solar farms – something that has yet to be implemented in Iowa.

“We in Mills County have been working with our conservation (department) in trying to develop one, and we did present the first draft of that,” said Jackson. “It basically makes it a little more even because in Mills County we have landscape in some parts that’s rolling hills and landscape in other parts of the county that’s completely flat. So we want to make sure that each of those areas are addressed with the right kind of pollination.”

Additionally, she adds the commission is making sure they have the preferred definition of a “utility sized” farm and what the minimums and maximums would be with acreage or wattage.

Early last month, the Mills County Board of Supervisors approved an engagement letter with Baird Holm Law Office to consult with the building and zoning department. Jackson says their role has served multiple purposes, including adherence to the existing Iowa Code and ensuring the ordinance is fair for all involved parties.

“We’re also looking to make this ordinance an even balance for participating landowners, non-participating property owners, and developers,” Jackson emphasized. “The goal is not to deter this but to be consciences of those in the surrounding areas and how we want this to affect Mills County.”

However, Jackson says items such as a required minimum and maximum height have been informally agreed upon, including a two-foot minimum and 20-foot maximum.

She adds the extra time was also sought given the significant impact of the projects the rules would govern.

“It’s not something that we’re taking lightly and I understand that this is going to change the face of Mills County,” said Jackson. “We want to make sure that even though we’re changing pieces of Mills County we’re still holding onto the rural division that we do currently have.”

The discussions have been ongoing for months, and Jackson acknowledged the effort that much of her department and commission members have put in to get to this point.

“We’ve conferred with other counties that have already developed this or maybe are in the process of redeveloping part of their ordinances including Johnson County,” she said. “Regarding the pollination score card, we did have to reach out of state for that and we followed some of the examples of others that have already been put in place.”

While the moratorium runs through February, Jackson says the goal is to present the updated amendments to the planning and zoning commission at its regular meeting in January on the first Tuesday, with a presentation to the board of supervisors shortly after should it be approved by the commission.

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