Belgrade is pushing ahead with a new solar ordinance, aiming to have the city vote in November

BELGRADE — City officials are set to pass a first-of-its-kind solar ordinance, with the intention of ending the current moratorium on commercial solar projects in November.

Last week, the Board of Selectpersons made minor language changes to the proposed order and requested that a city attorney review it. Belgrade is one of several cities in the region that have adopted a solar moratorium, with the aim of developing ordinances specific to solar energy. Belgrade is one of the first cities to start finalizing new regulations.

Belgrade rules state that solar panels must be at least 250 feet from residential dwellings and public and private roads. If a developer wants to build a solar project in a forested area, only 10 acres could be cleared, and the project must then maintain 15% of the land as open natural space.

The ordinance also addresses the appearance of a solar project, requiring that a solar farm be at least 80% obscured by a buffer. To form this buffer zone, developers would be encouraged to use existing plants or plant more vegetation. If no plants can be grown on the site, the planning board may approve the use of a fence or wall, which must be at least 15 feet from any property line or road.

Also, no more than half an acre of the project can be seen from Belgrade waters.

Other restrictions include a maximum height of 12 feet, a ban on the use of herbicides, and requirements for fencing around equipment.

The ordinance outlines the various elements required to apply to build a solar array in the city and must include a site decommissioning plan, which the ordinance defines as the complete removal of all components above and above below ground.

Planning Council members said at last week’s meeting of elected officials that in crafting the solar ordinance they tried to match state statutes, and when that couldn’t be done , the members negotiated compromises to reach an agreement on the ordinance.

“It’s commendable that the Planning Board was able to negotiate, I mean it was really about finding consensus in the middle,” said Board of Selectpersons member Carol Johnson.

The ordinance will now be reviewed by the city attorney before returning to the Planning Board on August 18 to finalize the language. Then he will return to the Board of Selectpersons in September, then be on the ballot in November for a municipal vote.

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