South Jacksonville Trustees To Clean Up Language Governing Solar Installations – WLDS-WEAI News

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The Village of South Jacksonville’s Board of Trustees are having to clean up a year-old ordinance governing solar installations.

A little over a year ago, the village board enacted an ordinance that was passed mainly on the residential side of zoning and building ordinances in order to ensure that solar panels installed on property would not egregiously affect the looks of a home and also be a burden to neighboring properties.

The solar ordinance also dictated the height and appearance of any ground mount or roof top installations.

Representatives from Chicago-based clean energy group Cultivate Power approached the village on March 21st about a solar farm that is being planned on the White Family’s farm ground near the southern border of the village’s corporate limits. The zoning for the area is currently under a general Industrial zone, which due to the village’s ordinance language, is somewhat open in terms of definitions.

Keira Gavin, Cultivate Power

Senior Development Manager for Cultivate Power Kiera Gavin returned to propose some changes to the village’s ordinances to make the solar ordinance and the zoning ordinance language align this past Thursday: “What’s written in the base of the ordinance for the Village is mostly tailored to building requirements specific to a building. It doesn’t describe any specific solar project requirements. We also note that you all passed a solar ordinance last year in 2023, and that is pretty specific to solar as an accessory use, but does have a lot of good, thoughtful conditions around design and requirements around solar on homes. We think that this ordinance or an amendment to the ordinance in pursuing a project in alignment with the requirements through the solar ordinance rather than through the generalized requirements of the I-1 district would give us more clarity and the village more clarity around the design requirements for the project. It would allow for clear expectations on both sides.”

The solar project is expected to be an 5 megawatt, 26-acre installment that will be a community solar project providing local electricity generation. The project will directly feed into an Ameren-Illinois substation off of Vandalia Avenue.

Village Trustee J.W. Coleman believed that the request to be somewhat of the “tail wagging the dog” as far as the company attempting to dictate village ordinance rather than the village board setting the requirements and the company adhering to them. He suggested that the rest of the board listen to the village attorney’s advice and take time to look over the suggested changes before voting on them.

Village President Dick Samples says that everything to do with solar is new ground for the village: “We have a very general ordinance on the solar panels, because it’s a brand new thing. [Cultivate Power] wanted another ordinance in addition to the one we had to cover them in the event that something would happen. Our ordinance doesn’t say anything about the height of electric poles and things related to that. Their requests were covering the things that we should have covered through the original document. Our industrial zoning ordinance was written with no intentions of ever using it for solar panels, and we passed another ordinance for solar panels, but it was geared more towards residential than what their proposal is. This is all brand new ground.”

The trustees voted to table the measure for the meeting in an effort to look over Cultivate Power’s proposed amendments to their ordinances.

The ordinance amendments are expected to be voted on at an upcoming Special Meeting prior to the regular Committee of the Whole session on April 18th.

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