Louisa County supervisors have mixed reaction to renewable energy zoning changes

Louisa County supervisors have mixed reaction to renewable energy zoning changes

During a public hearing last week, the Louisa County Planning and Zoning Commission approved recommendations to make several renewable energy zoning changes. Those recommendations were presented to the Louisa County Board of Supervisors during the board’s meeting Tuesday.

LCPZC Chair Sherry Humphreys said in a memo that the commission wanted to provide for the orderly development of a solar energy industry in the county.

“The purpose (for the new zoning division) is to facilitate the construction, installation and operation of solar energy systems in Louisa County in a manner that promotes economic development, protects property values and ensures the protection of health, safety and welfare while also avoiding impacts to important areas such as agricultural lands, conservation lands and other sensitive lands,” she wrote.

Humphreys also included a second letter describing a proposed permit fee structure for approved solar garden energy and solar farm energy systems. The proposed fee structure would be based on the amount of kilowatts produced by a system, with a cap of $16,000.

“An identical fee structure can be found in other counties’ solar ordinances, but without a cap,” Humphreys said.

She suggested the fee be used to establish a revolving loan fund to help existing businesses expand or for new businesses to start operations in the county.

“The idea is not new — just new to Louisa County, (and) now we have an opportunity with the solar fees providing the funding for the revolving loan fund,” she said.

The fee proposal appeared to generate the most concern with the supervisors.

Supervisor Brad Quigley said the fee could discourage solar energy development in the county.

“(We) want to encourage growth,” he said, suggesting the permit fees were higher than what the county currently charges for other building permits required for new factories or other developments.

“We’re not looking to gouge anyone,” Humphreys said, adding however, the fee could provide an opportunity for the county to boost business development.

Clenera, an Idaho-based solar energy developer, and CIPCO (Central Iowa Power Cooperative) have already announced plans to build a 100 megawatt solar farm on about 850 acres of land south of Wapello. Other investigations involving an area in northeast Louisa County are also reportedly continuing.

The supervisors indicated they may hold a special meeting on Friday to consider the proposed zoning changes.

In other action, Brian Hall, emergency management services director, and Mike Norris, executive director of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, met with the board and provided an update on the status of flood recovery efforts in the county.

The two said it did not appear likely there would be any buy-out program for flooded properties, and recovery from the groundwater flooding, heavy precipitation and other water-related incidents earlier this year appeared to be subsiding.

Hall said his coordination efforts would continue in some areas that still were being considered for federal assistance.

Norris also provided the board with the latest report on the Great River Housing Trust Fund.

In final action, the board met with public health administrator Roxanne Smith and veteran affairs director Adam Caudle for their monthly departmental updates.

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