China planners approve extension on solar permit

by Mary Grow

At their May 11 meeting China Planning Board members approved a one-year extension of SunRaise Investments’ permit for a solar development on Route 3.

At their April 27 meeting, SunRaise representatives explained delays in starting construction as due to factors outside their control. Planners postponed action in case neighbors wanted to comment; on May 11 they approved the extension promptly and unanimously.

SunRaise representatives said in April construction might start late in 2021 or early in 2022.

Planners spent most of the rest of the meeting continuing to wordsmith their proposed ordinance to regulate solar developments. They also agreed tentatively to take on another project, revising the China Land Use Ordinance to conform to state requirements.

Revisions to the Solar Energy Systems Ordinance are by now primarily for clarity and for consistency with older town ordinances, rather than for content. Board members intend to continue working on it at their May 25 meeting.

China received a May 10 letter from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) saying China’s April 6, 2019, revision of the Land Use Ordinance has been conditionally accepted. Conditional acceptance means, Codes Officer Jaime Hanson said, that the 2019 update is not yet enforceable; from DEP’s perspective, the 2017 version remains in effect.

DEP has asked mostly for two types of revisions to bring the town ordinance into compliance with state regulations, Hanson said. One set of changes involves definitions: DEP has changed some of theirs, and expects municipalities to match the changes.

Other DEP objections point to places where China rules differ from state rules. Board members discussed one example, the provision in China’s ordinance that says for purposes of calculating lot coverage (the percentage of a lot covered by impervious surfaces), driveways and parking lots do not count.

This exemption makes China’s ordinance less restrictive than state regulations, which do include these areas. Board members agreed that municipalities are not allowed to have regulations that are less strict than the state’s.

Board Chairman Randall Downer asked that the DEP letter be made public so residents can see reasons for changes the local board proposes. It is now on the town website, www.chinagov.org, under Planning Board, with the title “DEP Department Order #07-2021 Ordinance Approval.”

The draft Solar Energy Systems Ordinance is directly under the DEP order.

The next regular China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25. Barring unfortunate pandemic-related developments, it will be in person in the former portable classroom behind the town office.

 
 

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