SB 429 (Stanley) and HB 508 (Hodges) severely limit a local government’s ability to determine the siting of solar facilities. SB 429 will potentially be heard in Senate Local Government Committee on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 23. HB 508 is referred to House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee. As of yet, no hearing has been scheduled for HB 508.
• The bills remove local ability to determine the best approach for integrating solar facilities within the unique setting of each community.
• The bills represent a trend in granting special privileges that dictate basic local tax and land use policy for the solar industry.
The bills prescribe 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. They also state that “unless a local ordinance provides otherwise,” any similarly configured ground-mounted solar generation facility in those districts shall be allowed as well. Additionally, larger ground-mounted solar facilities in agricultural areas, that serve “150 percent” of the customer’s electricity needs, are given the same allowance.
While the bills do make allowances for compliance with any building height and setback requirements, as well as compliance with any local historic districts, they seek to have the state legislature micromanage local zoning authority.
It’s important to note that for larger solar facilities – serving agricultural, commercial, industrial, and institutional operations – the General Assembly passed a law in 2014 declaring such equipment exempt from local taxation. If the bills pass, local governments will be faced with losing control of determining both local land use and taxing policy.
House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee: Ingram (Chairman), Stolle (Vice Chair), Marshall, Poindexter, Morefield, Wilt, Hodges, Webert, Austin, Campbell, McGuire, Thomas, Herring, Heretick, Boysko, Bell, John J., Krizek, Mullin, Hayes, Guzman, Reid, Roem
VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP