BELGRADE — Town officials are nearing passage of a first-of-its-kind solar ordinance, with the intention of ending the current moratorium on commercial solar projects in November.

The Board of Selectpersons last week made minor language changes to the proposed ordinance and requested that a town attorney review it. Belgrade is one of many towns in the region that have adopted a solar moratorium, with the goal of developing solar-specific ordinances. Belgrade is one of the first towns to begin finalizing new regulations.

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

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

Also, no more than a half-acre of the project can be visible from Belgrade waters.

Other restrictions include a 12-foot maximum height, a prohibition on the use of herbicides and requirements for a fence around equipment.


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

Members of the Planning Board said at last week’s selectpersons meeting that in developing the solar ordinance they tried to match state statutes, and when that could not be done the members negotiated compromises to come to an agreement for the ordinance.

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

The ordinance will now be reviewed by the town lawyer before going back to the Planning Board on Aug. 18 to finalize the language. Then it will come back to the Board of Selectpersons in September, and will then be on the November ballot for a town vote.

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