The Freeport Planning Board is proposing zoning amendments at a Feb. 3 public hearing that would allow solar farms similar to these in certain districts. FILE

FREEPORT — Freeport may finally pass rules allowing for solar farms in town. The planning board will hold a hearing on the matter Feb. 3.

According to Town Planner Caroline Pelletier, solar farms are not allowed in Freeport, but some businesses and homes have solar panels that were permitted as accessories to structures. She said the town council had asked the planning board to consider solar energy uses in the town in early 2020, but the efforts were put on the back burner due to the pandemic.

“In reflecting on its goal of increasing sustainability awareness in Freeport and focusing on reducing carbon consumptions and greenhouse gas emissions, the town council encouraged the planning board to begin looking at options for solar citing in the community,” Council Chairperson John Egan said. “The governor’s commitment to carbon neutrality and getting off fossil fuels makes sense for many communities in Maine to be looking at this as we as a state embrace renewable energy as an expanding source of electricity.”

Small solar farms would be permitted in eight of the town’s 31 zoning districts, including in some rural residential, commercial, local business and industrial districts.

Solar farms being proposed to be permitted in an additional four zoning districts, including medium-density areas, two commercial districts and one of the town’s two industrial districts.

“Now, if somebody wants to do solar, it’s really not clear and there’s not even an opportunity for anyone to do a small or large solar farm,” Pelletier said. “This is really the first step in creating the opportunity.”

The amendment would allow systems that are mounted on rooftops or ground-based.

Under the proposed amendments, small solar farms, if ground-mounted, must cover less than 87,120 square feet, or two acres. Large solar farms, if ground-mounted, must be between two and 30 acres. The maximum height of ground-mounted solar energy systems would be 25 feet or the height of the principal structure, whichever is less.

According to the planning board agenda, small and large solar farms would be subject to site plan review by the Project Review Board. Ground-mounted systems, with the exception of single and two-family dwellings, would require site plan review as well.

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