The Waterville City Council has voted to approve changes to the city’s zoning ordinance regarding solar farms.

The council referred the matter to the Planning Board in September, asking the board to consider solar farm placement and standards. The council requested the board study the negative visual impacts of large-scale solar arrays and possible methods of mitigation; impacts to wildlife habitats, neighborhoods and outdoor recreational opportunities; and runoff and erosion issues.

The Planning Board approved its recommendations Feb. 13 and asked the council to approve them.

Waterville has five solar farms — one on Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District property on Water Street; two on Webb Road; one on Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport property, on the east side of Interstate 95; and one on Eight Rod Road, between a mobile home park and a new subdivision.

The Planning Board’s recommendations include information about when rezoning would be appropriate to allow for solar farms, and recommendations about solar farms from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

On Tuesday the council added a change to the rules that requires owners of solar farms smaller than 3 acres to submit a decommissioning plan to the city and provide financial assurance that money is available to dispose of the solar panels, wiring and other materials and restore the land when the facility is decommissioned. The state already requires such rules for solar farms that are 3 acres or larger.

None of those decommissioning rules apply if a solar installation is less than 1,750 square feet, according to City Solicitor William A. Lee III. He cited a rooftop solar array or one which heats a backyard pool as examples.

In other matters, the council voted to approve changes to a remote meeting policy that also governs whether people who attend council meetings remotely are allowed to take part. The council decided Feb. 6 to postpone voting on the matter to Tuesday so a public hearing could be held.

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