County Board to hold special solar meeting


OREGON – The Ogle County Board will hold a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10 to tackle the issue of solar developments in the county.

At its regular board meeting Dec. 18, the board was set to consider suspending the moratorium on solar developments that it put in place in August and voting on a number of special use permits for proposed solar farms that added up to hundreds of acres.

Instead, members voted 22-2 in favor of tabling recommendations made by a solar ad hoc committee. That meant the special use permits were put on hold as well.

Board Chairman Kim Gouker immediately set the Jan. 10 meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m.

After board member Dan Janes made a motion to adopt the recommendations from the ad hoc committee, new board member Ben Youman said he would like the board to have an opportunity to debate the recommendations.

“We should talk about what’s here,” he said. “We owe it to the community to talk through this.”

Todd McLester, another new board member, agreed. He said the new board members have not had a real chance to look through the proposed changes.

“I think we need to take time and talk among ourselves,” he said.

The new proposed standards for solar developments include language on fencing, buffers for residential areas, setbacks and what to do if a solar development is decommissioned.

Board member Thomas Smith spoke at length about the issue, calling it, “close to my heart.”

He said his biggest concern is the quality of life for county residents, and about “absentee” land owners using land for solar farms. He said the board needs to do what is best for the county.

But board member Lyle Hopkins said the board should act on the recommendations. He worried that board was continuing to “kick the can down the road” on the solar issue.

The board did take action to revise the zoning process in the county. It voted 17-7 to send zoning recommendations from the Zoning Board of Appeals directly to the County Board. Previously, the recommendations went from the ZBA to a zooming committee made up of board members.

Board member Marcia Heuer argued that the ZBA was a legal process, which includes calling witnesses. She said that process was all that was needed before the final decision was made by the full County Board.

“That’s judicial,” she said of the ZBA process. “That’s what we should listen to.”

In other business:

* The board named Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 as Forreston Cardinal Football State Championship Day in Ogle County to celebrate the team’s recent state championship.

* The board also honored James Harrison, supervisor of assessments, with a plaque for his 30 years of service with the county. Harrison is retiring from the position.