CHINA: Solar panel talks continue

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members spent the first hour of their Jan. 26 meeting continuing discussion of a proposed solar ordinance, leaving little time for two other agenda items.

During review of previous solar projects, board members realized that the town Land Use Ordinance, which focuses on buildings and pays attention to issues like effects on ground and surface water and parking and other vehicle-related impacts, does not easily fit applications for solar installations. They plan to prepare a solar-specific ordinance, at this point as a new Land Use Ordinance section rather than as a separate document.

The added wording will need voter approval. Board members have talked of asking selectmen to schedule a vote in June or November 2021.

Board member Toni Wall, who was absent Jan. 26, adapted the draft they reviewed from a Maine Audubon Society template. It deals with rooftop solar panels, individual land-based installations and commercial land-based solar farms like the ones approved on Route 32 North (Vassalboro Road), off Route 32 South (Windsor Road) and on Route 3 (Augusta Road).

Board discussion covered such issues as what, if any, land-based solar installations should be allowed in shoreland, stream protection and resource protection districts; which solar projects should require a planning board permit and which the codes officer should be authorized to approve or deny; and what information should be required in a solar application.

The second issue brought up was shoreland stabilization, beginning with what the term means and what it includes. Codes Officer Jaime Hanson, who has discussed the issue with town attorney Amanda Meader, offered suggestions for incorporating the concept into the existing Land Use Ordinance. The topic will be continued at a future meeting.

Hanson introduced the third item, asking for board input on a building code issue: should an ice and water barrier be required under a building roof? He explained the MUBEC (Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code) gives municipalities the option of including the requirement. Planning board members recommended including it for the benefit of homeowners.

The technological glitches that occur at the beginning of almost every China public meeting took an unusual form. As screen-sharing difficulties led to a transfer of the meeting host from one computer to another, viewers enjoyed a photo of three horses peacefully grazing in a meadow.

The next regular China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9. The record of the Jan. 26 meeting is available on the town website,


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