Claiming Solar is not a Conditional Use is an early tell about someone’s interest in the benefits of solar farms in Mason County.
Zoning defines “land use districts”. Then specifies which of three categories apply to each possible land-use in each district. The three categories are Permitted, Conditional, and Prohibited. Which the local ordinance defines as follows:
- Permitted: These are uses that are deemed to be the most appropriate uses, and are allowed in a district subject to the restrictions applicable to that district.
- Conditional: These are uses that are allowed in a district but which would impair the integrity and character of the district in which it is located, or in adjoining districts, unless restrictions on location, size, extent, and character of performance are imposed in addition to those imposed within this ordinance.
- Prohibited: The use is not allowed in that land use district then it becomes a conditional use.
Simply put, if a use is fully compatible with requirements established for all other uses in the district then it is an approved use. If special requirements are needed for a use in that district then by definition the need for those special conditions make it a conditional use.
Those who desire the economic and environmental benefits of well-regulated solar understand that solar farms are a long-term, highly technical, capital-intensive land use.
This reality requires a unique solution is needed to integrate each solar farm into its locale. Requiring a conditional use permit also means:
- The planning commission specifies measurable requirements for the use in that district.
- The developer crafts a proposal that achieves those requirements in that locale
- The community reviews the plan and comments on the proposal and may recommend changes.
- The Board of Adjustment hears from the developer and public and then recommends approval or rejection of the negotiated solar farm proposal for that location.
- The City or County then has the final vote to approve or reject the solar farm as proposed.
Some folks deny that Mason County must replace the income lost as dairy and tobacco. Others are not worried about the soil erosion or chemicals entering our watersheds from current agricultural practices. For this and other reasons, they seek to block all solar development just as they blocked all wind power.
Solar and Wind use different technologies. That fact indicates we should pattern our solar regulations on the KY model solar ordinance and solar ordinances successful in other jurisdictions. The push to use the Mason County Wind Energy ordinance as a model is being advocated by those whose main hope is to block all mid and large scale solar farms from Mason County. They want to use the same playbook used to block wind energy.
In claiming no need for a conditional use permit, solar opponents expose their confidence that they will be able to insert a poison pill requirement that will stop all solar, just as their 1 mile set back killed wind turbines. If they expected any chance of a viable solar farm, why would they not want to ensure it fits into its locale and benefits Mason County in general?
Many of us believe well-regulated solar can contribute to our county’s economic and environmental future. However, suppose we allow the anti-solar to stop solar. In that case, everyone in Mason County must immediately search for another land use because our current trends are taking us toward a bad economic and ecological future.