Chapter 23 solar regulations approved by board

Published on May 25, 2021

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To bring clarity to solar designations in unincorporated Weld County, the Board of Commissioners approved Chapter 23 zoning code changes this week. Since December 2020, changes were discussed in various meetings with energy and agricultural industry stakeholders before the board approved the changes after a three-reading process.

“These changes help promote economic development in Weld County. Landowners can now further develop properties and businesses in the county with the help of solar,” said Weld County Commissioner Chair Steve Moreno.

Changes to the code eliminate small and medium scale solar facilities from Chapter 23 Zoning and large scale solar facilities from Chapter 21. These changes shift the definition of a solar energy facility to encompass a commercial facility whose primary purpose is to supply electricity and consists of one or more solar arrays and other accessory structures and equipment, including substations, switchyards, battery storage, electrical infrastructure, generators, transmission lines, communications infrastructure and other appurtenant structures and/or facilities.

Specific changes regarding solar in Chapter 23 include:

  • Solar energy facilities located on five acres or less require a zoning permit, which is processed administratively. Only one solar facility can be located on a 35-acre parcel and cannot be adjacent to another.
  • Solar energy facilities that are between five and 160 acres near an urban area or between five and 320 acres in an ag/rural area require a Use by Special Review (USR) permit.
  • Solar energy facilities more than 160 acres near an urban area or more than 320 acres in the ag/rural area require a 1041 permit.

Both USR and 1041 permits require Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioner review and approval.

Changes outlined in Chapter 23 also help further the goals of the county’s comprehensive plan in that facilities must be compatible with future development and developers need to explain how prime agricultural land, neighbors and the county as a whole will be protected if a facility is located in the agricultural zone. All solar facilities must adhere to a setback requirement of 500-feet from an existing residential building and planned development areas. The overall definition of a solar energy facility does not include roof and/or ground mounted solar systems located on homes or other structures.

“We wanted energy and agricultural industry representatives to have a voice in this process due to concerns raised last fall about solar developers evading subdivision regulations,” said Department of Planning Services Director Tom Parko. “We’ve adjusted the way we’ve thought about solar energy facilities and certain designations due to stakeholder input over the past six months, and I think we’re in a great spot now to move this designation forward and implement these facilities.”

A separate ordinance for Chapter 21 1041 solar energy facilities will come before the board on June 14.

View the approved code changes by going to https://cmtcm.co.weld.co.us/weldcm/web/, acknowledge the disclaimer, then type 20211373 in the Doc# field for Chapter 23 amendments.

To learn more about the Department of Planning Services, visit https://www.weldgov.com/Government/Departments/Planning-and-Zoning.

 

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