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County considers solar panel ordinance, hears trash collection update

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Featured A Jeff Davis County solar panel farm Submitted photo A Jeff Davis County solar panel farm

Monday morning, county commissioners discussed a proposed solar panel ordinance that would protect the interests of citizens as well as those who wish to have a solar farm on their property.



Coffee County’s neighbor to the north, Jeff Davis County, has had some trouble with solar farms — to the point that many citizens are upset with number of solar farms in the county, the damage to county roads that the construction has caused, and the sheer number of acres of farmland that solar panels now occupy. 



“Our solar ordinance was virtually non-existent. Our objective here was to try to enhance our ordinance as best we could to try to provide some meaningful protection for citizens in the community but weren’t so onerous that you couldn’t have have a solar farm in Coffee County,” stated county attorney Tony Rowell.



The new ordinance would potentially require a buffer between solar farms and neighboring property — 100 feet if the adjacent tract is developed (homes, churches, roadways, schools, etc.) and 75 feet if the neighboring property is undeveloped. There would also need to be an approved architectural plan in place for the farm, a decommissioning plan as well as a bond that covers 125 percent of the cost of decommissioning the farm, guidelines that address erosion and stormwater runoff, and maintenance stipulations to ensure the farm is operating efficiently. The county would also like for solar farm owners to carry a $1 million liability policy to protect third parties in the event of damages to adjacent property, etc. Before a solar farm can be built, it would have to go through planning and zoning, code enforcement, and then to the county commission for approval. 



“They’ve had a time in Jeff Davis County,” said Commissioner Johnny Wayne Jowers. 



Rowell stated that the only zoning in which a solar farm should be built is in Ag. “We don’t need it in any of our other zonings,” said the county attorney.

The guidelines commissioners discussed Monday morning are suggestions. The commission will further discuss the proposed ordinance over the next several weeks before it is officially brought before the commission for a vote. Rowell added that he would like to see an ordinance in place within the next two months.



Also at the work session, commissioners met with Chad Edwards and other representatives of GFL Environmental regarding trash collection issues.  Edwards and county officials have previously met about collection issues, which included skipping cans, not picking trash up on time, damaged cans, and others. Edwards and County Administrator Wesley Vickers last met in mid-July. Edwards acknowledged that their service had been lacking. Since that meeting, GFL has secured two additional spare collection trucks, which has helped keep trash collection on schedule. “We haven’t had a week to week carryover with collection but we have had some day to day carryover,” said Edwards.



Overall, both Edwards and county officials seemed satisfied with the current status of trash collection in the county.

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