ELIZABETHTOWN — Elizabethtown now has a solar farm ordinance on the books, just in time for a moratorium that expires this month.
In November, the board heard from South River Land Company, LLC about a proposed solar farm on M&M Street. Since no ordinance specifically addressed solar farms, members imposed a 90-day moratorium on solar farms in order to gather more information.
During Monday’s monthly Elizabethtown Town Council meeting, Planning Technician Billie Hall presented board members with a text amendment specifically for solar energy (previously only covered under the broader “utilities” ordinance).
Under the amendment, solar energy would be divided into three categories: A Level 1 system would encompass roof-mounted, building-integrated panels. Ground-mounted systems no more than 10 acres would be considered Level 2, and a Level 3 system would describe those systems greater than 10 acres. Only Level 1 systems would be permitted in residential areas; levels two and three would only be allowed in the industrial district.
Not everyone was on board with the proposal.
“It bothers me that I can’t put two panels in my yard if I want,” said Councilman Howell Clark. “It’s my land. I pay taxes for the fire department and police department, and if I want to put a solar panel on the ground in my yard — I’m not talking about imposing on my neighbor — I don’t want it to be a danger or an eyesore — but if I want to cut down on my Duke Energy bill because my kids are running up the power bill, I ought to be able to do that.”
Hall informed the board that the ordinance had previously covered four categories, but the Planning Board nixed the ground-mounted residential level.
“This (solar energy) is a really big deal all over the country, so we need to make sure we get our ducks in a row,” said Councilman Ricky Leinwand.
Mayor Sylvia Campbell advised the board that the town needs an ordinance on the books prior to the expiration of the moratorium later this month, and suggested they approve the amendment as is and possibly revisit it later to make adjustments. The board agreed and passed the amendment.
In other business, the board:
— Welcomed new police officer Michael Boss to the department. Boss had previously served in Elizabethtown and will be joining the Patrol Division.
— Viewed two conceptual plans. The first, for Greene’s Lake and Conservation Park, is to include a mile-long walking trail, terraced garden, nature play area, fishing pier, paved trails, and meadows. The park is located in the Industrial Park near Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery. The second, for a concession building at Leinwand Park, incorporated the building currently used by Bladen Crisis. Board members suggested a less costly roof line and less dependence on an aging structure.
The next meeting of the Town Council will be its annual budget retreat on Feb. 27.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.