Watertown Planning Commission Continues Work on Solar Ordinance

LOCAL

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By William R. Dixon
Tribune Recorder Leader

The Watertown Township Planning Commission met is special session on Thursday, May 20th.
The primary thrust of the meeting was centered around creating a new solar power ordinance.
The Planning Commission roll call included; Chairperson Mark Batkie, Vice chair Nathan Campbell, Secretary William Dixon, Members Al Stoutenburg, Gary Fetting and Jason Radloff. Bob Danek has resigned.
Public attendance was high, as many were without seats, during the standing room only meeting marathon.
Residents Rick Pangburn, Lori Cowley and Mike Stauffer each offered public comments opposing any type of large scale solar development.
“I don’t want to live in the middle of an industrial park.” said Lori Cowley. “We were approached by the developers and we declined. Ultimately, it was more of a quality of life issue for us and for our neighbors.” she concluded.
Rick Pangburn stated that he would like to see a 500 foot setbacks from non-participating property owners. He along with Mike Stauffer expressed concern about the loss of property value in the shadow of a utility scale solar installation.
Following public comments, the commission began to work through the evening’s agenda.
The group then passed a measure to recommend adoption of all ordinance penalty classifications be changed from misdemeanor to civil infraction. Formal adoption could occur at the next board of trustees meeting on June 8th.
Chairperson Batkie then began an oral iteration of the first 11 of 15 pages of the preliminary working draft of the solar ordinance.
The group was able to make substantial headway on the completion of rules related to both small residential and medium size solar but just scratched the surface of crafting the language for large utility scale solar.
Samsung, along with at least three other industrial solar developers have expressed interest in local agricultural land and have signed lease agreements with several property owners.
The 200 Megawatt solar project Samsung has been working on could encompass 1,100 or more acres between Banner and S. Sandusky from Miller to Frenchline.
There was a general planning commission consensus on many of the draft elements but more work still needs to be done.
Initially, the group intends to exclude large scale solar development in certain areas along M-19, Miller and Campbell Rds for future commercial business development and have begun work on required setbacks from non-participating existing residential, agricultural and commercial property.
Much of the large scale solar ordinance language is still up for debate and the planning commission is scheduled to meet on the third Thursday each month until the new ordinance is done.
The potential Samsung investment for the tentatively proposed site is estimated to be nearly $200 million.
Full disclosure; the author of this news story is also the Secretary of the Watertown Township Planning Commission.

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