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ANDERSON – The Madison County Plan Commission voted unanimously to enact a six-month moratorium on large scale solar projects.

The Plan Commission Tuesday approved the moratorium for six-months or until a new county solar ordinance is adopted.

The Madison County Board of Commissioners has to vote on the recommendation before it takes effect. The commissioners are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the council chambers of the Madison County Government Center.

The commissioners can amend the recommendation or accept it as presented. If it is amended, the Plan Commission would have to vote on any changes.

The previous moratorium expired in July.

Brad Newman, the county’s planning director, said the Plan Commission could extend the moratorium for a set period of time or until the new solar ordinance is adopted.

He continues to work on a draft of the new solar ordinance, which is expected to be completed within the next six months.

The Plan Commission is required to conduct at least one public hearing on the proposed solar ordinance which will then have to be voted on by the commissioners.

Plan Commission member Jerry Alexander asked Newman if he has had discussions with state lawmakers on proposed legislation to regulate commercial solar projects. That legislation was not passed by the Indiana General Assembly this year.

Newman said he has reviewed the proposed state legislation which would establish state standards. He said the county could adopt an ordinance that was more restrictive before lawmakers act.

John Simmermon, a Plan Commission member, said the commission made it clear at the August meeting that they favored a moratorium.

“We agree we need protection before a new ordinance is adopted,” he said. “We want to protect the county before a company sneaks in under the existing ordinance.”

Newman said commissioner John Richwine made a motion last year to extend the solar moratorium until the new ordinance was adopted, but commissioner Kelly Gaskill and former commissioner Michael Phipps didn’t second the motion.

Joanie Krieg, a resident of Adams Township, said a company is approaching landowners in the Markleville area about a potential solar energy project.

“I bought agricultural land, not commercial or industrial,” she said. “If the solar development takes place, my property will be surrounded on two sides.”

Newman said he was aware that a company is talking to property owners near Markleville.

“There have been no petitions received,” he said. “If the moratorium is approved we can’t accept any petitions.”

The moratorium will not impact the Invenergy Lone Oak Solar Park in northern Madison County that has already received county approval.

Invenergy has to start construction on the 110 million, 120 megawatt project by Dec. 31, 2023.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.