China planners to prepare new solar ordinance

by Mary Grow

When China Planning Board members met virtually Dec. 22 to begin discussion of a new solar ordinance, most of the members had received the template sent in November to Codes Officer Bill Butler only that afternoon. The delay, they surmised, was due to the Nov. 30 change-over in local codes officers, as Butler retired and Jaime Hanson succeeded him.

First, board members decided to postpone discussion until after a more thorough review. Then they began bringing up specific points that had attracted their attention as they skimmed the document. Three-quarters of an hour later, they concluded they had made a good start and adjourned until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

The planning board has already approved three solar projects in China. Having found difficulties fitting the applications into existing ordinances’ wording and definitions, board members intend to prepare a new ordinance. At the Dec. 22 meeting they doubted it would be ready to go to voters before November 2021.

Kevin Corbett, Vice-President of Construction for SunRaise Investments, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the company behind two of the China projects, said he and attorney Tom Federle, of Portland-based Federle Law, suggest Maine Audubon Society’s models as a basis for local ordinances. (Information is available on the Maine Audubon website, under the heading “Thoughtfully Sited Solar.”)

Board member Toni Wall volunteered to convert the Maine Audubon template into ordinance language. Chairman Randy Downer, who said he has attended some of Maine Audubon’s solar meetings, accepted her offer with appreciation.

The template refers to small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale solar developments. Planning board members debated whether the distinction is needed in China’s ordinance.

The document deals with both individual roof-top solar panels and land-based projects like the ones on Vassalboro Road, off Windsor Road and on Route 3. Board members considered when the board needed to be involved and when the codes officer could make decisions, and what new definitions would be needed and where they would fit in the existing Land Use Ordinance.

Another issue was whether and, if so, in what circumstances solar panels required buffers or setback requirements from neighboring properties. Yet another was what kinds and sizes of solar panels or developments should be allowed in the shoreland zone.

Further review was postponed until, as Downer put it, a “Chinafied” version is ready. Wall plans to distribute her preliminary draft by Jan. 5, 2021, for consideration at the Jan. 12 meeting.


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