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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