FARMINGTON — At the selectmen meeting on Tuesday evening, Nov. 28, a special town meeting was approved for voters to consider several ordinance amendments.

The meeting will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, downstairs at the Community Center at 127 Middle Street.

The meeting was originally to be scheduled for Nov. 14 as new regulations at the state level require updates to Farmington’s Subdivision Ordinance and Site Review Ordinance. On Oct. 24 selectmen voted to hold off on the meeting until solar energy system changes in the Zoning Ordinance were finalized.

Amendments are being proposed for Land Use Sections 5 and 10 of the Subdivision Ordinance and Site Review Ordinance. On July 1, State Planning and Land Use Regulation laws were enacted that require a long-term affordability covenant for affordable housing developments per 30-A M.R.S. §4364 (3).

Regarding solar energy system changes in the Zoning Ordinance, Judith Murphy, chair of the Planning Board said one of the bigger things was changing the setback for industrial solar energy systems [ISES] from 75 feet to 200 feet. The Zoning Board voted unanimously, she noted.

A new section has been added describing setbacks for commercial solar energy systems [CSES] with the 75 feet requirement removed.


Zoning Board Chair Paul Mills said the setback has been a problem going back to when the ordinance was first enacted seven or eight years ago. Even when embedded on the roof of a commercial business, the setbacks were unattainable, he stated. It’s very rare a commercial building is that far back from the property boundaries, he noted.

Selectman Dennis O’Neil asked why the ISES setback requirement was changed.

Two years ago during a discussion on a solar array coming in on the Farmington Falls Road near the intersection with Davis Road, a 500 feet setback was asked for, Selectman Joshua Bell noted. “Part of that group of 15-20 people wanted 500 feet, that was a little excessive,” he said. “This is a compromise.”

“Distances are somewhat arbitrary in any event,” Mills stated. Something 50 feet away may not be visible, something 500 feet away is, he said. “You need to draw the line somewhere.”

O’Neil questioned the private residential solar energy system [PRSES] section “shall not be subject to PRSES performance standards” where the word ‘not’ was removed.

“I think they want everybody to be buying the right equipment for installation on their property,” Murphy said. “No one wants things that are not meeting the standards of the industry.”


Other changes for CSES and ISES include notifying abutting landowners by certified mail 15 days prior to initial application consideration; requiring an eight foot fence with locked gate enclosing all ground-mounted systems; and except in certain instances, electrical wires and utility connections must be underground. Roof- or wall-mounted CSES are exempt and the Planning Board may make adjustments based on soil conditions, shape and the site’s topography.

One screening requirement section was replaced with a more in depth section for CSES and ISES while a new section for those systems states they are not permitted in the town’s 100-year floodplain.

“I think overall the Zoning Board has done a really good job,” Murphy said. “The changes are good. We all know it’s not set in stone. It is working now but if it doesn’t six months or two years from now we can come back and there can be an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance. That’s not a bad thing.”

Selectman Byron Staples appreciated everyone’s time and effort.

There was more than ample opportunity for public input, Selectman Stephan Bunker noted.

“We had a workshop a couple weeks ago to make sure we were all on the same page,” Murphy said.


“It sounds like it worked out really well,” Bell said.

Voters on Dec. 12 will also consider ordinance changes regarding innkeepers, victualers, tavern keepers, and lunch wagons; special amusement; and motor vehicles for hire. Copies of the ordinance changes will be available at the Municipal Building and at the special town meeting.

Bell was told it is the Select Board that sets the fees for solar energy systems, that another public hearing wasn’t required if the fee structure were to be changed.

Bell recommended keeping the $50 fee for PRSES the same. He suggested increasing the $500 fee for CSES and ISES to $1,000 and $5,000, respectively. Doing so would cover the work needed by the town and its attorneys.

“Five hundred dollars is a drop in the bucket for a solar farm,” Chair Matthew Smith said. “Anything big our lawyer will be going over it.”

Other industries, such as marijuana are being charged more, Bell noted. “They are not nearly the size of these corporations. It will help cover our costs,” he said.


“Even the industrial ones can vary substantially from very small to very large,” Murphy stated. “To me the $5,000 doesn’t seem fair.” There may be a small one that’s 20 acres, then there’s one that is 600 acres, she said.

O’Neil noted fees were not part of the special town meeting so a decision didn’t need to be made that night.

“I think we should pause, take a breath. Think about it and see what we can find out, get additional information,” he said.

Bell was fine with that and the board by consensus agreed the fee structure would be a future agenda topic.

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