Process to draft new Cerro Gordo County wind, solar energy ordinance getting underway

MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Planning & Zoning Commission is starting the process of drafting an ordinance to deal with wind and solar power as well as battery storage.

The supervisors back in May approved an 18-month moratorium on accepting applications for issuing permits for utility-scale wind energy conversion systems, solar energy installations, and battery storage installations in the rural portions of the county.

County administrative officer Tom Meyer says the Planning & Zoning Commission met late last week and decided to take the first steps in the process instead of waiting for the final version of the county’s new comprehensive plan to be put in place.  “Currently wind and solar don’t have a specific ordinance, it’s done as a special use. I think the consensus was just in general to lean towards more codified rules and procedures for people to understand. Unfortunately the comprehensive plan, we were expecting it in August or September, but the final version is not done yet, so it’s been kind of delayed a little bit. I felt at this point with the moratorium ending next August, we really couldn’t wait until February or March for the comprehensive plan to be done, we really needed to start the process.”

Meyer says the commission wants to review similar ordinances in neighboring counties as a reference point for drafting Cerro Gordo County’s ordinance.  “Part of it they want any abutting counties, neighboring counties, we’ll get those, and they had some random counties that I think they had heard things about or there was some legal activity going on that they wanted to get those. We’ll probably end up with at least 15 to 20 ordinances of random Iowa counties.”

Meyer says the commission also plans to hold five separate public meetings throughout the county to gather public comments.  Those dates are January 16th, then February 1st, 7th, 13th and 15th.. One will be in Mason City at the courthouse. One will be in Rockwell, one in Thornton, one in the Clear Lake/Ventura area, and then one in Rock Falls or Plymouth.

Meyer says the commission is looking forward to starting the ordinance drafting process.  “The moratorium ends in August, so they kind of have some deadlines they have to meet. I think the P&Z Commission is looking forward to the process. We had all five at the meeting and I think they’re ready to move forward.”

Once the Planning & Zoning Commission has drafted a final version of the ordinance, the county’s Board of Supervisors must approve that recommendation.