Delaware County approves temporary solar energy moratorium to address landowner concerns
By Stephanie Wiechmann
The Delaware County Commissioners have approved a moratorium on solar farm applications in the county, so officials can consider concerns from local landowners.
Delaware County officials passed new rules on solar farms in May and approved tax abatements for two upcoming solar projects in October.
But landowners in Washington Township that live nearby and haven’t signed their land up for solar panels say they weren’t notified about the actions beforehand.
“We love to watch our sunsets on the horizon,” says Catherine Kirtley. “But we will no longer even see the horizon. There’ll be 20-foot-tall solar panels.”
“Would you really still want to live in this area where you don’t have no say in it and, all of a sudden, you’ve got solar panels around your house and you’re getting no money for it?” asks Brian Richards.
Kirtley, Richards, and others are being represented by Jason Kuchmay, a business and real estate lawyer from Fort Wayne.
Landowners say they are worried about declining property values, panels they call “toxic” polluting well water, and taking active farm ground out of commission. Wes-Del Community Schools is also concerned about the tax abatements, saying the district will lose operating funds.
Commissioner Shannon Henry started the process. “So the moratorium would be – I’ll make that motion to be in effect until the 22nd, when we can get these additions corrected.”
Commissioners approved a moratorium on any solar project applications until a late February meeting. That’s because changes to the solar ordinance will first have to be considered by the Delaware-Muncie Metropolitan Plan Commission. Member Marta Moody says the commission will consider it in early February.
Commissioners are asking for an increased “setback” between any solar panel and the adjoining property, changes in fencing requirements, and procedures to deal with any damaged solar panel that may leak substances.