Solar Regulation Updates Approved by Pulaski County Plan Commission

Proposed changes to Pulaski County’s solar farm regulations now head to the county commissioners for final approval. The updates to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance got a favorable recommendation from the advisory plan commission Monday.

One of the biggest changes is that commercial solar farms would only be allowed in agricultural zones after a hearing before the board of zoning appeals or in planned unit developments. Building Inspector Doug Hoover said that would give neighbors a chance to weigh in before construction could start. “This way, they go to the hearing; you’ve got the right to come to the meeting and yay or nay,”Hoover said. “Maybe you don’t like it. Maybe you do like it. We could just have said, ‘Hey, it’s open,’ but no. I think this is more fair.”

Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer added that it would also mean that decisions about major projects wouldn’t be up to the building inspector alone. “Instead of him just saying, ‘Oh, here’s your permit,’ it puts it to five people representing the population of the county,” Origer said.

The updates would also adjust the county’s fee schedule so that solar development would cost $1,250 per megawatt, plus the fee for the BZA hearing. The changes also outline the minimum setbacks, construction standards, and the various agreements and documents required for the application process. Small-scale personal solar panels would still be allowed in most areas, under certain conditions.

No objections were raised during Monday’s public hearing on the proposed changes. The county commissioners are expected to vote on them on December 16. If approved, the new regulations would take effect January 1.