2,000 years ago all roads, it was said, led to Rome.  Today, all roads – or at least all major societal trends – lead, eventually, to changes in local zoning codes.  Like when we adopted entirely new zoning codes to adjust to being an automobile dependent society.  Like when communities adopted regulations controlling placements of the cell towers we demanded so that we could communicate 24/7 from any and every place we stood. 

             And when the world around us converted to binary codes, we eventually had to develop new zoning regulations for uses called “server farms” for companies such as Apple and Google and Facebook. 

         Now, a new kind of “farm” has emerged and local zoning codes are being rewritten to accommodate them.  “Solar farms” are proliferating, and communities must decide which types of districts they are allowed in.

             Davidson County is home to one of the largest “solar farms” in the country – second only to one in the Mojave Desert – where 100 acres of photovoltaic cells follow the sun’s daily path, generating enough megawatts for Duke Power to supply electricity to 2,600 average sized homes.

             Yesterday I read an AP article about Canton, Massachusetts using its closed landfill as a location for a small solar farm, and other communities across the country are considering using capped landfills for the same purpose.

             But photovoltaic solar panels can also be placed on top of schools and other buildings.  Are they accessory uses?  Industrial uses? Utilities?  If they are deemed to be industrial uses, could a tobacco farm converted to solar farm be stopped because it is spot zoning?  All of these questions must be answered.

             And don’t forget that wind power is being harnessed now through mammoth wind turbines on what colloquially are called “wind farms.”  Where and how will we allow land in our communities to be converted to such uses? 

             After the Davidson County solar farm was announced the City of Archdale in neighboring Randolph County adopted a new category for its Table of Permitted Uses for “Wind and Solar Energy Systems.”  These matters are being discussed more and more in planning departments and in council chambers every day.

            So . . . as the world goes, so goes the zoning ordinance.

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Tom Terrell

Terrell_TomMr. Terrell is widely regarded as one of North Carolina’s leading land use attorneys, representing both private and governmental entities in matters related to real estate development. His practice “footprint” covers the state from the mountain counties to the coast and occasionally includes…

Terrell_TomMr. Terrell is widely regarded as one of North Carolina’s leading land use attorneys, representing both private and governmental entities in matters related to real estate development. His practice “footprint” covers the state from the mountain counties to the coast and occasionally includes parts of Virginia and South Carolina. His many clients are involved in commercial and residential real estate, solid waste hauling and disposal, telecommunications, quarries/asphalt and miscellaneous litigation related to permit denials, vested rights and rezonings.

He has published numerous articles and speaks regularly to legal, governmental and business groups on a variety of issues related to land use and zoning.

Mr. Terrell has served as a leader in numerous civic and legal endeavors, including Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the N.C. State Health Plan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Winston-Salem State University, and service on the Board of Directors of the UNC-CH General Alumni Association, Board of Directors of the High Point Chamber of Commerce, Board of Visitors of Guilford College and Board of Center Associates of the Center for Creative Leadership, and as a founding member of the N.C. Bar Association Zoning, Planning and Land Use Section.

More information can be found at https://www.foxrothschild.com/thomas-e-terrell-jr/.

Mr. Terrell can be contacted at mailto:tterrell@foxrothschild.com.