SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Board members will consider whether to limit the number of acres solar energy projects can take up within the county this week.
The debate is set to take place during the board’s 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting at the county’s Legislative Building, 200 N. Main St.
According to county documents, the proposed temporary land use limit policy for solar energy projects up for County Board consideration would be a maximum of 8,000 acres across the county.
“The recommended limit does not apply to ancillary uses, such as panels installed on rooftops or on farms for the purpose of powering that particular property,” the documents state. “The recommended limit shall be reviewed at the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee meeting in January 2024.”
DeKalb County Board member Steve Faivre, who chairs the county’s planning and zoning committee, said Tuesday the update comes after the county started the public hearing process for applications related to three proposed industrial solar energy projects.
“The issue has come up that people in the community ... don’t want to cover all of the ground with solar panels,” Faivre said.
However, Faivre said, “there are still some issues in the agenda of whether or not legally we can” even temporarily limit the number of acres that solar energy projects could occupy in the county. He added “there’s a high probability the county could be held liable” for any monetary damages project applicants withstand, especially if their proposals followed the current county solar energy ordinance – which was already subject to a public hearing a few years ago.
Faivre said project applicants could claim the county is “changing the rules as soon as we’re getting started.”
DeKalb County community members previously voiced concerns about future solar energy projects using up farmland too quickly, field drainage concerns and neighboring property values possibly plummeting if they’re adjacent to industrial solar farms, which could have 15-foot high panels. Project officials previously said the two industrial solar energy projects would not be invasive, would generate more property tax revenue than the current agriculturally-zoned land, and they would work to be good neighbors to non-participating property owners.
Faivre said the theory was the temporary acreage restrictions could still be passed by the board as a policy and not an ordinance right away. On the flip side, he said county attorneys are thinking it may have to be part of the ordinance after all and therefore subject to another public hearing.
Faivre said there’s also a chance that the temporary acreage limit proposal might die if the consensus is to not impose the limit after all.
Should the county hearing officer recommend County Board approval for the three current industrial solar energy project applications, Faivre said the project proposals are set to go before the county planning and zoning committee by the end of September and the County Board in October.
Other items of note that will be covered during this week’s County Board meeting include a COVID-19 situational update from Lisa Gonzalez, public health administrator for the DeKalb County Health Department. The board also will vote on whether to appoint DeKalb County Sheriff’s Chief Dep. Andy Sullivan as acting sheriff for the office until November 30, 2022.