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UPDATED: The Linn County Board of Supervisors has approved the first two readings of an ordinance imposing a moratorium on consideration of new industrial-scale solar and wind developments – but it’s not for a full year, as originally proposed. Instead, the board, during a work session Monday, unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that imposes a three-month moratorium with conditions that will allow the moratorium to be extended by three-month intervals, via simple board resolution, while county officials work to update the county’s renewable energy ordinance to address concerns about buffers, vegetative screenings, agrivoltaics and battery energy storage systems. The revised ordinance’s second reading was approved Oct. 5. A third and final consideration is set for the board’s regular meeting at 11 a.m. Oct. 12. Before the board’s second vote to approve the ordinance Oct. 5, supervisor Stacey Walker said he wanted renewable energy supporters to know that his vote represented more of a “pause” than a long-term moratorium on new solar projects. “That this does not reflect a change in substantive policy or my feelings on the importance of renewable energy in our community,” Mr. Walker said. “I wanted to dispel that sentiment. This is an attempt to make an already good (renewable energy) ordinance better and to alleviate some of the pressure we're feeling in some of our departments.” During the board's first reading, board of supervisors chair Ben Rogers said he felt a year-long moratorium, as originally proposed by Linn County staff and unanimously recommended for approval by the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission in September, would be “too long.” He proposed the three-month moratorium, to expire by the end of December, to allow a county-appointed committee of various stakeholders, including local residents, to study concerns and issue a list of potential changes to the county’s utility-scale solar ordinance. “I do want to honor some of the concerns,” Mr. Rogers said, referring to the contentious debates that preceded the board’s approval of utility-scale solar projects near Coggon and near the former Duane Arnold nuclear plant earlier this year. “But I don't know if we need six months. We certainly don't need a year. I would be comfortable with doing three-month blocks, (and) if you needed additional time, you would come back to this board to say ‘here's where we are, here's what we've gathered and here's how much more time we need.’” He also suggested the supervisors' solar moratorium can serve as a time to review if Linn County has, or will, reach a feasible limit on renewable energy generation. “if a future board approves several other phases of NextEra, or if there's another applicant that comes forward, is there a point at which we've hit sort of a solar threshold, whether that's the number of panels or the number of acres or the number of watts generated?” he asked. “I think it would be important to understand if we've reached a saturation point where maybe we’ve used enough land in Linn County or we’ve simply met capacity.” Mr. Walker said he felt that a review of the county’s renewable energy policy doesn’t suggest that the existing policy is inadequate, but it presents an opportunity to further involve county residents in the process of reviewing utility-scale solar and wind energy projects. He also suggested it may be necessary to review county staff’s capacity to review a growing volume of renewable energy plans. “One of my biggest hopes, with any changes that may come to the ordinance, is that we're looking for ways to make these projects safer (and) more welcoming in the neighborhoods in which they will be cited,” he added. “I also know that the applicants have taken it upon themselves to negotiate agreements with local labor entities, and I think our ordinance could further incentivize that kind of behavior so that we aren't reliant on applicants to do that kind of negotiation on their own. Perhaps they can be compelled to bring on local skilled and qualified labor to construct these projects, so these dollars are staying in our community.” Supervisor Louie Zumbach said he felt the ordinance’s use of the term “moratorium” was an unnecessary impediment for some, but staffers said that term was required. He also agreed that while a 12-month moratorium was too long, a three-month halt was probably too short. “I surely like the idea of doing this, because I think we should have done it from the beginning,” said Mr. Zumbach, who cast the lone board vote opposing the Coggon and Duane Arnold solar projects. “I will concede we've learned a lot that we didn't know. But I look forward to having an ordinance that all parties have been involved in, (including) people that live around these operations.” For his part, county planning and development director Charlie Nichols, who led the initiative to pursue a moratorium, said he felt a “balanced group” of county residents, which is slated to be appointed and begin meeting soon, can make recommendations that would improve the county’s existing policies. “We've learned some things from this process, and we know we can make our code better,” Mr. Nichols said. “That's why we're requesting this moratorium. And the purpose is to take a look at specific sections of code – for example, setbacks, screening, vegetation – to make sure we are balancing our comprehensive plan goals as best we can.”