Routt County seeks to streamline regulations on solar panels and food processing on farms

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County commissioners discuss zoning amendments

• Value added ag/food processing

When: 2 p.m. Tuesday, no vote to be taken

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room in the Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.

• Solar energy systems

When: 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, no vote to be taken

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room in the Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave.

Possible vote to recommend approval or denial by the county Planning Commission, 6 p.m. Thursday.

Matter returns to County Commissioners June 11 for final vote.

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners can be expected to tweak new regulations on solar arrays and food processing on farms as two new measures make their way through the approval process.

The commissioners told members of the county planning staff Monday that they generally are pleased with the new amendments to the county zoning regulations.

However, they tentatively disapproved of language in a new zoning amendment that would allow homeowners to locate solar arrays within utility easements on their property provided they can gain permission of the various stakeholders.

And Commissioner Doug Monger expressed strong concern with new definitions of food processing facilities on farms and ranches that would allow them as many as 50 vehicle trips per day.

Monger, who ranches east of Hayden on Routt County Road 69, said 50 additional trips over and above the typical 10 to 20 for the farm or ranch household driving past his home would be too many.

“If (the new regulations) put 50 trips on my road, I’m going to be mad as hell,” Monger told county planner Alan Goldich. “I think that’s too damn many. If you add 50 trips, that doubles the traffic on that road.”

The vehicle trip standards are part of an effort to recognize the growing interest in practicing value-added agriculture in rural Routt County. The term value added implies that ag producers keep more of the profits generated by their crops or livestock by converting them to finished products on site.

The zoning amendments are to be presented to the commissioners on Tuesday for discussion, but no vote will be made. There are less regulations than definitions of three categories of value added operations: farm stands, small agricultural processing facilities (1,200 square feet or less) and medium agricultural processing facilities (between 1,201 and 4,000 square feet).

Goldich told the commissioners that during public hearings, planning commissioners and members of the public agreed that the originally proposed 20 trips per day proposed by planning staff was too low.

Monger said that as written, the definitions would permit the processing facilities to generate an additional 50 trips per day in some cases on minimal or no-maintenance roads, and he added that is something the county would not approve of for certain residential subdivisions.

Further, he said, the additional trips could put the county roads over a state threshold that would force the county to take on the additional expense of applying magnesium chloride to the roads for dust suppression.

Solar in the setback

Planner Jake Rosenberg told the commissioners that the amendment to the county zoning regulations regarding solar panels and arrays is meant to allow property owners to site their solar ground arrays and roof panels in the optimum location for solar gain. It would accomplish that by allowing homeowners to locate solar arrays inside building lot setbacks without having to go to the board of adjustment.

The commissioners suggested to Rosenberg that any property owner seeking to locate a solar collector within an easement be required to seek abandonment of that easement to prevent confusion when properties change hands.

The proposed regulations, which go to the county Planning Commission on Thursday and back to the Board of Commissioners for final adoption June 11, would allow solar energy collectors to be placed within 5 feet of lot lines and 15 feet of road rights-of-way. It also would allow roof-mounted collectors to exceeded the roofline by as much as 5 feet or exceed the maximum height of the structure by as much as 5 feet.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

John Weibel 1 year, 3 months ago

50 vehicle trips is a massive number for a small farm especially one that is operating out of such a small facility. An operation like that would be more akin to something of a store front and not simply a small farm processing their own products on farm for retail or wholesale sale elsewhere.

Having the general public access to ones farm all the time should require a different level of approval than simply preparing ones farm products on farm for distribution off of their farm. In a rural setting people tend to take as few trips per day as possible. I can not foresee a small operation needing that number of vehicular trips.

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