The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners voted to send back to the Planning Commission that body’s recommendation of proposed changes to the Johnson County Rural Comprehensive Plan and Johnson County Zoning and Subdivision Regulations related to the regulation of Utility-Scale Solar Facilities. The zoning regulation amendment included two new safety standards for Battery Energy Storage Facilities connected to USSFs which would regulate installation and hazard mitigation.
The 6 – 1 vote took place at a special meeting at the Olathe Conference Center on April 4. The meeting included staff and consultant presentations, and approximately 40 comments made in person or virtually during the public hearing.
During the BOCC special meeting, staff summarized the timeline leading up to yesterday’s special meeting and discussed the proposed amendments and regulations, including requirements for a solar facility decommission plan. Also as part of the meeting Dr. Bruce Parkinson, Professor of Energy and Environment and SER Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, University of Wyoming, spoke about the minimal hazards and dangers associated with USSFs, including battery storage. Additional information came from County Appraiser Beau Boisvert, who explained tax abatements for USSFs as well as how these facilities impact the value of nearby properties.
In a series of votes, the BOCC instructed the Planning Commission to review the following proposed amendments:
a. Clarification regarding how off-site street maintenance and repair
b. Clarification that battery energy storage facilities are allowed related to USSFs
c. The addition of a performance standard related to battery energy storage facilities and the requirement of applicants to supply, and assume the costs, of specialized fire safety equipment or other protections.
d. Additional suggested clarifications recommended by planning staff
e. A 25 year Conditional Use Permit term instead of the Planning Commission’s recommended 20 years, with a one-time automatic extension for five years if the project remains compliant.
f. A Maximum Project Area of 2,000 acres, instead of the Planning Commission’s recommended 1,000 acres, including a waiver option.
g. A 1.5 mile minimum distance from a city, instead of the Planning Commission’s recommended 2 miles, including a waiver option.
h. A consideration of adding  CUP standards if necessary for impact on surrounding landowners due to the addition of transmission lines to service solar facilities.
The BOCC’s recommendations for the Planning Commission will be on the agenda of a special Planning Commission meeting for further consideration. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10 at 5:45 p.m. in the Board of County Commissioners hearing room (111 South Cherry Street, Olathe.) Please note the date is subject to change. More information on this issue is available at jocogov.org/solar.