By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – After receiving three proposals to develop solar farms on property owned by Arkema east of the railroad tracks, the council asked City Attorney Randall Pentiuk to draft a regulating ordinance.
Arkema, a chemical products company, still owns the land where in 2009 Taminco shuttered a manufacturing facility it purchased from Arkema.
Community Development Director Dave Scurto said at a June 12 City Council study session that the city has received three requests to construct ground-mounted solar energy systems on the Arkema site, but has no ordinance in place to govern such installations.
More inquiries are anticipated since the city is promoting renewable energy installations on land east of the railroad tracks as part of its master plan.
Pentiuk will draft an ordinance requiring a minimum of 10 acres for a solar farm, which is recommended for public or semi-public zoning, which covers the land preserve, or a general industrial zoning district. The ordinance would also address the application, permit and approval process, escrow accounts, setback, height, landscape screening and road access regulations.
An escrow account set up by the permit seeker would cover any costs incurred by the city, including planning, engineering and legal costs. The account would also fund the cost of solar equipment decommissioning and removal should the entity discontinue operations.
“Currently the city allows free-standing solar systems, but they must be incidental to a use, to a house,” Scurto said. “You can’t fill up the whole backyard.”
The ordinance would limit solar panel height to about 15 to 16 feet, comparable to a single story building, and it would be set off 20 or more feet from the edge of a 10-acre minimum site. Screening and security measures would also be specified. Wiring would be required to be run underground.
Scurto said contaminated sites where buildings cannot be put are viable candidates for solar farms, and the city would like to negotiate with Arkema about solar farm installation on the property.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)