Urbana: Solar farm plan keeps us in mind

Urbana: Solar farm plan keeps us in mind

URBANA — City council members should not stand in the way of a Champaign County zoning proposal that could bring solar farms to rural areas.

That's the recommendation from Urbana city staff ahead of tonight's Urbana City Council meeting, when the council is scheduled to vote on whether to protest changes to the county rules on solar farms, which were proposed this month by the county board.

In order for the county proposal to move forward, it needs Urbana's stamp of approval.

The city has the right to protest the guidelines set out in the proposal, but city staff believe it keeps Urbana in mind.

For example, Planning Manager and Zoning Administrator Lorrie Pearson said, the proposed county rules amendment already protects the city's ability to grow.

"There are protections in the text amendment itself that solar farms won't be allowed within a half-mile from our boundary," she said.

"In essence, the city staff feel there are enough protections for the city to grow into its extraterritorial jurisdiction."

Like wind farms, solar farms would need a special permit from the Champaign County Board to be built.

They are restricted to AG-1 and AG-2 agricultural zoning districts.

There are already seven applications for solar farms, including a possible 1,200- to 1,300-acre wind farm near Sidney proposed by Irvine, Calif.-based BayWa r.e.

The county board is set to consider final approval of the solar farm rules on Thursday.

Should the proposal pass, the first solar farm public hearing will be on Aug. 30.

In other business, Urbana will consider a proposal to merge the Development Review Board and the Design Review Board, which the Plan Commission said already share four of the same members and have similar application and approval processes for the same sorts of development proposals.

Staff is recommending council members merge the two departments.

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