Solar Zoning Ordinance Bill Passes with Amendments Made to Address Local Concerns

January 29, 2018

HB 508 (Hodges), which limits local authority for the approval of solar facilities, reported from the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee on January 26.

The legislation prescribes a “one-size-fits-all” approach for localities that makes roof-mounted solar facilities serving the electricity needs of that building a “by-right” use in all agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and mixed-use districts. The measure also states that “unless a local ordinance provides otherwise,” any similarly configured ground-mounted solar generation facility in those districts shall be allowed as well.

HB 508 makes allowances for compliance with any building height and setback requirements, as well as compliance with any local historic districts.

The bill was amended in Committee to add compliance with any provisions of “architectural preservation” and “corridor protection” districts. Regarding ground-mounted facilities, the Committee also agreed to delay the effective date of the legislation, till January 1, 2019. This gives localities additional time to make any desired changes to local ordinances.

VACo opposed the bill in Committee and notes that counties already make adequate provisions to accommodate solar installations, and should retain the ability to determine the best approach for integrating such facilities within the unique setting of each community within their jurisdiction.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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