MUSCATINE — After hearing from several providers during a public hearing, the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors approved the first reading of changes to the county zoning codes and a comprehensive plan to accommodate utility-scale alternative and renewable energy production.
This issue had been tabled from the May 3 meeting due to problems with the online broadcast of the meeting.
Changes include the ability to give solar arrays a special use permit in agricultural districts and as a permitted use in light industrial districts. At the request of public speakers, the board also increased the amount of time for an array to be commissioned from 12 months to 18 months. The board is expected to consider the next two readings of the ordinance amendments during the next two Monday meetings.
“We really couldn’t put an ordinance in place that allowed conversion of farm land and still have it be consistent with our comprehensive plans and goals plan unless we made a little provision for this,” zoning director Eric Furnas said.
During the public hearing, no objections were made to the changes, except to make a few modifications to the wording. One person asked to include something about the hiring of local people, but that was outside the scope of the ordinance.
The organization Progress Muscatine thanked the supervisors for approving the request to table the public hearing during the May 3 meeting so access to the meeting could be made.
“Making this information accessible on the website is a significant and measurable step toward transparency and accessibility in county government, and we would like to thank the board for their efforts,” said Jessica Brackett, board president, Progress Muscatine.
A large scale solar operation recently went online in Louisa County just south of Wapello. During previous discussion, Furnas had said that a solar energy company has reached out to area landowners in West Liberty and Atalyssa. Muscatine Power and Water has also discussed a plan using renewable energy production.