6/25/2020 10:31:00 AM CHISAGO COUNTY, MN - AMENDING THE CHISAGO COUNTY ZONING ORDINANCE BY REPEALING AND REPLACING STANDARDS AND DEFINITIONS FOR SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS INSTALLATION AND USE IN
(June 25, 2020)
ORDINANCE NO. 061720-1
THE CHISAGO COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONER ORDAINS: Section 7.31 of Chisago County Zoning Ordinance 08-3 is hereby repealed and replaced with the following language:
7.31 SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS
A. GENERAL PROVISIONS.
1. Purpose and Intent Chisago County finds that it is in the public interest to encourage the use and development of renewable energy systems that enhance energy conservation efforts, but result in limited adverse impact on nearby properties. As such, the County supports the use of solar energy systems. Chisago County also finds that the development of solar energy should be balanced with the protection of the public health, safety and welfare. The County resolves that the following standards shall be adopted to ensure that solar energy systems can be constructed within Chisago County while also protecting public safety and the natural resources of the County. Consistent with the Chisago County Comprehensive Plan, it is the intent of the County with this Section to create standards for the reasonable capture and use, by households, businesses and property owners, of their solar energy resource, and to encourage the development and use of solar energy.
2. Severability The provisions of this Section shall be severable and the invalidity of any paragraph, subparagraph or subdivision thereof shall not make void any other paragraph, subparagraph or subdivision of this section.
3. Applicability These regulations shall apply to all solar energy systems on properties and structures under the jurisdiction of the Chisago County Environmental Services Department. Those systems shall be defined as solar energy systems generating less than 50 megawatts of power. Chisago County shall refer any application for a large electric power generating plant (LEPGP) to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) for approval.
B. DEFINITIONS. The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this Section, shall have the meaning provided herein, except where the context clearly indicates otherwise:
Accessory Solar Energy Systems: Systems which are accessory to the principal use on a property and designed to supply energy solely for the principal use.
Building or Other Architecturally-Integrated Solar Energy System: An active solar energy system that is an integral part of a principal or accessory building, rather than a separate mechanical device, replacing or substituting for an architec¬tural or structural component of the building. Building-integrated systems include, but are not limited to, photovoltaic or thermal solar systems that are contained within roofing materials, windows, skylights and awnings.
Commercial Solar Energy Systems: Systems designed to supply energy for off-site users on the distribution grid, or for export to the wholesale market via connection to the electric transmission grid.
Department: The “Department” shall be construed to refer to the Chisago County Department of Environmental Services.”
Ground Mounted Panels: Freestanding solar panels mounted to the ground by use of racking, pilings, piers, stabilizers or similar apparatus.
Large Energy Power Generating Plant (LEPGP): Any Solar Energy System capable of producing 50 megawatts or more of power.
MN PUC: The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
Rooftop or Building Mounted Solar Energy System: A solar energy system that is mounted to the roof or building using brackets, stands or other apparatus.
Site Area Footprint: The site area footprint for commercial solar energy systems is the total area of the solar array enclosed by the security perimeter and may include the size of any solar energy systems located on contiguous parcels and/or the aggregate impact thereof, as determined by the Zoning Administrator.
Solar Administrative Permit: A land use permit required by the County for the installation of commercial solar energy systems having a site area footprint of less than ten acres, as regulated by this Ordinance.
Solar Collector: A device, structure or a part of a device or structure that the principal purpose is to transform solar radiant energy into thermal, mechanical, chemical or electrical energy.
Solar Energy System: An active energy system that collects and/or stores radiant energy from the sun and transforms solar energy into another form of energy, or transfers heat from a collector to another medium using mechanical, electrical, thermal or chemical means.
C. TYPES OF SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS:
This Ordinance identifies and regulates the following two types of solar energy systems:
1. ACCESSORY SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS: Systems which are accessory to the principal use and designed to supply energy solely for the principal use shall be subject to the following:
a) Permitted Use: Accessory Solar Energy Systems are permitted accessory uses in all districts in which buildings and structures are permitted.
b) Building Permit: A building permit and applicable inspections are required for ground-mount, rooftop mounted and architecturally-integrated accessory solar energy systems.
c) Accessory Use Standards: Accessory solar energy systems shall be subject to the accessory use standard for the district in which they are located, including dimensional standards, such as setbacks and lot area coverage limitations.
d) Visual Impact: Rooftop, building mounted, and architecturally-integrated accessory solar energy systems shall be placed on the roof or building so to limit visibility from the public right-of-way and neighboring properties, or to blend into the design of the roof or building.
e) Height Limitation: Ground-mount accessory solar energy systems shall not exceed twelve (12) feet in height.
2. COMMERCIAL SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS: Systems designed to supply energy for off-site users on the distribution grid, or for export to the wholesale market via connection to the electric transmission grid (i.e. community “solar gardens” or “solar farms” and other commercial systems generating less than 50 megawatts) shall require an Administrative Solar Permit or an Interim Use permit, as determined by site footprint and/or determination by Zoning Administrator, and shall be subject to the following:
a) Minimum Parcel Size and Parcel Allowance: Commercial solar energy systems shall be located on parcels of land no less than five (5) acres in size.
b) Interim Use Permit Required: Commercial solar energy systems shall require an Administrative Permit (projects less than ten acres in site area footprint) or an Interim Use Permit (projects with site area footprint greater than ten acres) in accordance with the relevant sections below.
c) Prohibited Areas: The County permits solar energy systems within each of its designated Zoning Districts with the exception that Commercial Solar Energy Systems are prohibited within the following areas:
1. Shoreland Districts as designated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Chisago County Shoreland Management Ordinance;
2. Within six hundred (600) feet of areas designated or formally protected from development by the Federal, State or County agencies as wildlife habitat, wildlife management areas or designated as National Wild and Scenic land or corridor;
3. Floodplain Districts.
d) Building Permit and Site Plan Compliance: A building permit is required for installation of all system components regulated by the building code. A site plan certification of compliance is also required. No final building permit inspection approval or site plan compliance certification shall be issued by the county until all building code requirements have been met and the solar energy system has been constructed in a manner that is deemed compliant with the approved site and land use plan.
e) District Standards: Commercial energy systems are subject to the standards for the district in which they are located except as herein otherwise specified, and the conditions of approval placed upon the Interim Use Permits.
f) Power and Communications Lines: All on-site power and communications lines running between the elements of the project and the connection point shall be buried underground on premise. The Zoning Administrator may grant exemptions to this requirement in the instances where shallow bedrock, water courses or other elements of the natural landscape interfere with the ability to bury lines.
g) Annual Notification: The permittee of any commercial solar energy system shall annually notify the Zoning Administrator of his intent to continue operation of the commercial solar energy system, and certify that the project is in compliance with its approved site and land use plan and conditions of approval, including the active status and inflationary review of Decommissioning Plan surety. The project owner/operator shall provide the Department a minimum 90-day notice of intent to decommission a project.
h) Decommissioning Plan: At time of application for an Administrative or IUP permit, the project developer of all ground-mounted commercial solar energy systems shall submit a decommissioning plan for approval. The purpose of the decommissioning plan is to ensure that the permittee properly removes the equipment and facilities upon the end of the projects useful life. End of project life determination shall include, but not be limited to, the existence of panels and project components that are not in use for twelve (12) consecutive months. The plan shall include provisions for the removal of all structures and foundations, the removal of all electrical transmission components, the restoration of soil and vegetation and a soundly-based financial surety ensuring financial resources will be available to fully decommission and restore the site. All solar project decommissioning disposal plans shall meet the requirements of the Chisago County Solid Waste Ordinance and applicable Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regulations at the time of decommissioning. All decommissioning and operational plans shall include a product stewardship element that requires the recycling and/or reuse of all solar panel racking, components, and materials upon their removal, replacement, or damage throughout the project life.
To aid in determining financial surety, the plan shall include an industry engineer’s estimate of the decommissioning cost for County staff review and approval at the time of submission. Financial surety in an amount equal to or greater than 125% of the resulting County staff approved surety is required to ensure proper decommissioning that shall be provided in association with the building permit application.
All solar project decommissioning plans shall include inflationary or other financial surety review and adjustment provisions. Periodic review of current economic factors associated with the salvage of solar projects and solar technology may cause the County to require financial surety review and revision by the permittee owner. Adjustments to financial surety may be made upon receipt of renewed engineer’s estimates from the project owner and approval and acceptance from the County. In no instance can surety guarantees be adjusted less than 125% of estimated cost of decommissioning.
Failure to maintain financial surety, update surety due to inflationary or other revision requirements, or maintain a current decommissioning plan shall be grounds for revocation and/or nullification of permit approvals and site operation.
i) Large Energy Power Generating Plant: Commercial solar energy systems which have a generating capacity of 50 megawatts or more of power shall fall under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
j) Collector Systems Prohibited: The use of mirrors or other reflecting devices for the purpose of redirecting or concentrating solar energy or light for use in solar energy systems is prohibited.
k) Future Alterations to Project Elements: All future alterations to elements of the project, including racking, pilings, panels, security fencing, and visual screening shall conform with all relevant provisions of this Ordinance.
D. ADDITIONAL STANDARDS FOR ALL SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS:
In addition to the standards required above, the following standards shall apply to all Solar Energy Systems regardless of classification.
1. Compliance with MN Building Code. All SES’s shall require a building permit, shall be subject to the approval of the County Building Official, and shall be consistent with the State of Minnesota Building Code.
2. Compliance with MN Electrical Code. All photovoltaic systems shall comply with the Minnesota State Electric Code. Additionally, all commercial solar energy system projects should evaluate and include where practical harmonics limiting design and/or equipment at the point of common coupling consistent with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 519 Standard.
3. Compliance with MN Plumbing Code. Solar thermal systems shall comply with applicable Minnesota State Plumbing Code requirements.
4. Compliance with MN Energy Code. All SES’s shall comply with HVAC-related requirements of the Energy Code.
5. Compliance with MPCA regulations. All projects shall be subject to the relevant MPCA regulations governing erosion control, including obtaining an NPDES permit, and/or any other pollution or contaminant management regulations.
6. Controlled Access. The owner or operator shall contain all unenclosed electrical conductors located above ground within structures that control access.
E. ADMINISTRATIVE SOLAR PERMIT REQUIREMENTS:
1. Administrative Solar Permits: An Administrative Solar Permit application shall be required for all Commercial Solar Energy Systems with a site footprint less than ten (10) acres in size, contiguous or aggregate. The site area footprint size shall be computed by a determination of the Zoning Administrator. Projects proposed for location within 1320 feet of an existing commercial solar project shall be reviewed by the Zoning Administrator for a determination of aggregate impact, and may require the processing and approval of an Interim Use Permit, regardless of site area footprint.
2. Community Meeting: Prior to submission of an application for an Administrative Solar Permit, a community information meeting shall be organized and hosted by the project developer. The purpose of the meeting is outreach, with the intent of providing complete information to the community in an informal setting. The meeting shall not be construed to be a local government meeting or formal public hearing. The meeting shall be conducted in accordance with the following protocol:
a) Notification: The proposer shall notify the County Board of Commissioners, Zoning Administrator, the Township Board of the affected Township, and all property owners within one quarter (1/4) mile (urban locations) or one half (1/2) mile (rural locations) of the proposed Commercial Solar Energy System a minimum of ten (10) days prior to the community meeting.
b) Meeting Date/Time/Location: The meeting shall be held on a weeknight (Monday thru Thursday) at an accessible location within the Township where the proposed project will be located, such as the Township hall or other community center, or alternately at the Chisago County Government Center.
c) Content of Meeting: The informational meeting shall be arranged and hosted by the applicant or a qualified representative and shall at a minimum include a detailed explanation of the project, the site plan for the proposed project, anticipated construction schedule, the landscaping and screening plan, and the decommissioning plan.
d) County Representation: Chisago County Environmental Services personnel shall staff the meeting, to monitor proceedings and provide guidance as needed.
e) Response to Concerns: The project developer shall solicit and accept all comments, questions and concerns of the citizens at the meeting, and respond to the identified concerns with reasonable, practical means and methods of mitigating undue impact to the surrounding area.
f) Meeting Summary and Report: A summary and report regarding the community meeting shall be submitted to the Department at the time of application for the Solar Administrative Permit. The report shall include a list of the landowners who were invited, a record of attendees, and copies of all written comments received. The report shall itemize the concerns stated by the citizens and shall include a statement of reasonable, practical mitigation the proposer will undertake to address those concerns and minimize impact to the community. This report shall be used by the Department to establish suitable conditions of approval on the Solar Administrative Permit.
3. Administrative Solar Permit Application Submittal Requirements. Applications for a Solar Administrative Permit shall be submitted on the official Departmental application form, and the fee paid.
The application shall be accompanied by the following submittals, at a minimum, unless expressly waived by the Department. Additional information may be required by the Department, as determined to be necessary.
1) A written narrative describing the project and all elements of the project.
2) A full written report detailing the proceedings and outcomes of the community informational meeting.
3) A level-two wetland delineation and report shall be submitted on properties proposed for use as commercial solar energy systems, simultaneously and in association with the land use permit application, unless expressly waived by the Department.
4) A landscape plan designed in accordance with the provisions in Section F (4) below. Landscaping must be specifically tailored and emphasized as it pertains to the view from the adjacent home(s). Opacity levels must be met and the level of overall landscape treatment shall be commensurate with the project setback.
5) A detailed description of the type and location of interconnection equipment to be used, in accordance with the provisions of Section F (11) below.
6) Description of anticipated construction schedule and timeline to completion. Construction phase elements of every solar development project must address specific site, traffic, driveway, noise, and staging/laydown area practices such as:
a) Perimeter fence and landscape improvements shall be installed prior to all other above grade site improvements and confirmed compliant by county inspection. The county may authorize project commencement if seasonal or wintertime conditions obstruct the reasonable progress of fence and landscape elements of the project.
b) Deliveries must be routed and delivery drivers must be specifically instructed to maintain compliance with all roadway, hauling, tonnage and traffic safety regulations. Local routing of traffic must be clearly coordinated using safety, trucks hauling, and other such directional signs upon approach to the site. A traffic route and delivery plan shall be submitted for review and approval with the land use permit.
c) Shipping and construction crew vehicles shall not be parked, idled, or staged anywhere but the authorized construction site and shall not be parked or staged on adjacent roadways.
d) Routing of deliveries on trunk and county highways shall be prioritized and required over shorter distance or more convenient routing thru developed town or residential neighborhood and road areas.
e) Appropriate road authorities (Township and/or County Highway Dept.) shall be consulted for driveway location and construction standards and permits. Trailing of dirt, debris, mud, onto adjacent roads and any visible wear or damage to adjacent roads resulting from the project development shall be immediately remedied or repaired as required by the applicable road authority.
f) Construction equipment and materials storage and laydown areas shall be restored and all materials and temporary job site structures, materials, or improvements shall be removed prior to county issue of site plan certification of compliance for the project.
7) Horizontal and vertical elevation drawings, drawn to scale which clearly show the following:
a) Existing features b) Proposed features c) Property boundaries d) Property zoning designation(s) including required setbacks from property lines buildings and roadways e) Solar arrays, connecting lines, and all affiliated installations and structures f) Access points, drive aisles, security features, and fencing g) Topography and surface water drainage patterns and treatment systems h) Woodlands, Grasslands Prairielands identification i) Existing and proposed/preserved/protected wildlife corridors, with wetland/woodland/topographical connectivity indicated j) Landscaping plan, including required screening of the site perimeter and security fencing k) Existing vegetation, with areas proposed for removal and/or preservation depicted l) Floodplains m) Soils n) Historical features o) Archeological features p) Wildlife and ecological habitat q) Environmental mitigation measures r) Description of project staging (if applicable) s) Preliminary decommissioning cost estimate
4. Zoning Administrator Approval: Solar Administrative Permits shall require approval by the Zoning Administrator or his/her authorized agent. Such approval shall be issued following a Departmental determination that all relevant requirements of this section of the Ordinance have been met.
5. Solar Administrative Permit Expiration: Solar Administrative Permits which have not been activated through site preparation or building permit application within one year of the date of permit approval shall expire and become null and void.
F. ADMINISTRATIVE SOLAR PERMIT PERFORMANCE STANDARDS
1. Noise – Construction and routine maintenance activities shall be limited to daytime working hours, as defined in Minn. R. 7030.0020, to ensure nighttime noise level standards will not be exceeded. The following additional noise related site standards shall also be satisfied:
1) Placement of transformers, inverters, or other equipment generating ongoing vibration or noise must be done in such a manner that low level recurring ambient noise does not audibly cross property boundaries. Placement of equipment interior to the site, shielded by proposed solar panels, and/or shielded by specifically placed noise and vibration deadening fence, landscape, berm, or other efforts, shall be required for all commercial solar sites in close proximity to existing developed homes or property boundaries.
2) The piling installation construction phase of every project generates repetitive audible noise and is extremely disruptive. Piling installation timelines and durations shall be identified in the application and consolidated into the shortest most confined time period possible. Installation of pilings shall take place only during permittee identified daytime and weekday hours which may be further limited by permit conditions if in close proximity to existing residences. Piling installation shall cease on Sundays and be limited between the hours of 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
2. Site Sediment and Erosion Control – The Permittee shall implement those MPCA-recommended erosion and sediment control which are deemed by the Department to be applicable. If applicable, the Permittee shall obtain an NPDES Permit, and provide the Department with the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) submitted to the MPCA as part of the (NPDES) permit application. Those erosion and sedimentation control measures determined to be necessary shall be installed or implemented prior to construction and maintained in accordance with the SWPPP.
3. Ground Cover - Areas of bare ground at each facility shall be re-vegetated with a low-growing, accepted pollinator-friendly seed mix, and shall be maintained throughout the life of the project.
4. Visual Screening and Landscape Plan
a. Preservation of Existing Screening: Existing forestation, foliage and native fauna within, near and surrounding the project area shall be preserved insofar as is practical. Preservation of existing vegetative screening may be credited toward meeting the screening requirements stipulated below, upon such determination by the Zoning Administrator. The permitee shall establish and maintain an approved landscaped vegetative visual-buffer on-site in the manner prescribed below so as to limit undue impact to potentially affected abutting/nearby properties. The screening shall be maintained for the life of the project, including re-establishment of buffer in the case of decimation or destruction by disease, weather, fire or other peril, and guaranteed by financial surety pursuant to subsection F (4) (b) (2) below.
b. Screening From Dwellings, Roadways/Around Interior Perimeter Fencing: All commercial solar projects shall include the development, installation, and maintenance of a performance based landscape plan (wind row style plantings) placed outside the fenced perimeter and consisting of suitable native shrubbery and trees. Trees and/or shrubs shall be a minimum of six feet tall when planted, and shall reach project-affiliated fence height and leaf-on conditions 75% opacity screening by the end of year three of the project.
1). A site specific performance based landscape plan designed by Minnesota- licensed landscape architect or Minnesota- certified arborist shall be submitted verifying that the above-stipulated height and opacity goals will be achieved by the end of year three of the project, given normal growing conditions. In lieu of a landscape architect performance based landscape plan, the planting of two staggered rows of 6 foot tall coniferous trees coupled with site specific earthen berm construction may be proposed to meet the 75% opacity screening requirement.
2) Financial surety in an amount sufficient to guarantee that the planting heights and 75% opacity screening goals are achieved by the end of year three shall be provided prior to building permit approval.
3) Perimeter fence and landscape improvements shall be installed prior to all other above grade site improvements and confirmed compliant by county inspection.
c. New Vegetative Screening Location: All new, installed vegetative screening shall be established outside of the security fence, and shall maintain a minimum 20-foot setback from the parcel property lines.
5. Wetlands – All activities conducted within wetlands shall be carried out, regulated and/or prohibited in accordance with the provisions of MN Chapter 8420.
6. Blanding’s Turtle – The Permittee shall follow MN DNR’s recommendations for avoiding and minimizing impacts to Blanding’s turtle.
7. Security Fence Design – No chain link, or barbed wire fencing is permitted. The security fence surrounding the facility shall consist of agricultural fencing, also known as “deer fence” which is of woven wire composition.
8. Maintenance – Permittee shall be responsible for on-site cleanup of all waste and scrap that is the product of construction, as well as ongoing maintenance of project property, including disposal of trash, waste, and other detritus, for the life of the project. Such maintenance shall include sustaining and maintaining the visual screening buffer in an attractive and aesthetically pleasing manner.
9. Financial Surety/Site Restoration – Financial surety shall be provided and maintained by the permittee as required by this Ordinance.
10. Setbacks The required minimum setback from roadways and neighboring property lines for all project elements including structures, panels, racking systems, and security enclosure, are as follows:
• 75 feet from all non-right of way property lines or 275 feet from any dwelling whichever is greater.
• 135 feet from the centerline of State and County Roads for the first commercial solar energy system on any single parcel and 735 feet from the centerline of State and County Roads for any additional commercial solar energy system on the same parcel.
• 135 feet from centerline of all other public roads.
11. Interconnection equipment - Interconnection equipment shall be mounted at grade whenever possible, as may be regulated by Minnesota and Xcel public utility regulations. Interconnection equipment that is effectively screened from view, and located a minimum of 600 feet from public rights of way and/or neighboring residences shall be permitted an exception to this standard. In all cases, the use and quantity of above ground utility poles shall be limited to the fullest extent possible.
12. Revocation – Violations of the performance standards listed in this Ordinance, and/or the conditions of permit approval shall be cause for the Administrative Solar Site permit to be revoked, by decision of the Department. Upon permit revocation the site shall be decommissioned in accordance with the decommissioning plan. Failure of the permittee to decommission the site in accordance with the decommissioning plan may result in the issuance of a citation and criminal charges, and/or County seizure of the financial surety and decommissioning of the site. Decommissioning costs that exceed the amount of posted financial surety shall be collected from the developer, landowner, or assessed against the property. A decision to revoke an Administrative Solar Site Permit may be appealed to the County Board of Adjustment within thirty (30) days of the date of the notification of revocation.
13. Future Land Use. The future land use and development plan(s) for the project host property shall be discussed in the project narrative and presented in a scalable site sketch plan. Practical use of the balance of the subject property must be reasonably identified and preserved. Navigable roadway and/or driveway access to the balance of any subject property use or future development sites must be demonstrated.
G. INTERIM USE PERMIT (IUP) REQUIREMENTS:
1. Interim Use Permit: An Interim Use Permit (IUP) shall be required for a Commercial Solar Energy Systems which is situated, (or which is staged to be eventually situated) on a contiguous or aggregate site area footprint ten (10) acres or larger in size, whether commonly owned/controlled or otherwise. The site area footprint size shall be computed by a determination of the Zoning Administrator. Projects proposed for location within 1320 feet of an existing project shall be reviewed by the Zoning Administrator for a determination of aggregate impact, and may require the issuance of an Interim Use Permit, regardless of site area footprint.
2. Application for Interim Use Permit: An application for an IUP for a Commercial Solar Energy System shall be accompanied by the submittal requirements stipulated for Solar Administrative Permit applications, as listed in Section E (3) above. All such applications shall be processed in accordance with and meet all the requirements of Section 8.04-1 of the Chisago County Zoning Ordinance provisions governing Interim Use Permits.
3. Interim Use Permit Performance Standards: Approved Interim Use Permits shall generally conform with the provisions specified for Solar Administrative Permits in Section F above, but may be allowed some measure of flexibility on a case-by-case basis as determined to be appropriate, at the discretion of the Planning Commission and County Board.
The ordinance amendment (2018 0418-1) to the Chisago County Zoning Ordinance 08-3, adopted by the Chisago County Board of Commissioners on April 18, 2018, is hereby repealed and replaced with the above language, upon its adoption, in all its relevant sections.
I. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Ordinance shall be in full force and effect after its approval and publication as provided by law. Adopted by the Chisago County Board of Commissioners this 17th day of June, 2020.
Chair, Ben Monztka Clerk, Chase Burnham
Drafted by: Chisago County Environmental Services 313 N. Main St. Center City, MN 55012