Starke County Commissioners Table Solar Farm Ordinance

Solar panels as seen on the grounds at the Kankakee Valley REMC site on U.S. 30 in Wanatah. Photo provided.

A solar farm ordinance sits on the burner for two weeks for more consideration by the Starke County Commissioners.

Building Inspector Terry Stephenson presented the commercial energy systems guidelines for the installation of solar farms in Starke County.  He commented that the tech committee took a similar document approved in Jasper County and molded it to fit the county’s needs. 

“And it’s not restrictive enough to keep the solar companies out,” said Stephenson.  “We have a lot of interest in putting these in Starke County.  I believe there’s like four different companies are trying to negotiate.”

Commissioner Kathy Norem pointed out that the solar farm operations are limited to agriculture zoning with a 40-year contract.  However, the length of the contract is not listed in the ordinance.  County Attorney Marty Lucas said there are several items that aren’t involved in the ordinance including glare reduction for aviation, landscaping buffer, indemnification of the county if road damage happens during installation, or the basis for denying a permit, among others.

Two representatives from companies looking to get solar farms initiated in the county attended Monday night’s meeting where they told the commissioners that it all depends on location if a solar farm would be initialized.  Any-sized acreage would work as long as power lines cross and other factors line up that make it an ideal location for solar panels.  A commercial area would not be an interest to the companies.

While Commissioner Bryan Cavendar voiced his support of the ordinance, Commissioner Kathy Norem said she wants more time to review the document and tour properties where the companies have approached property owners as a potential site.  The commissioners then voted to table the ordinance until the commissioners’ next meeting on Monday, June 3.