Maries County Commission continues planning, zoning talks

By Colin Willard, Staff Writer
Posted 9/6/23

VIENNA — The Maries County Commission received another email from a solar power company full of questions about the county’s requirements for installing solar panels in the county.

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Maries County Commission continues planning, zoning talks


VIENNA — The Maries County Commission received another email from a solar power company full of questions about the county’s requirements for installing solar panels in the county.

The latest email, which the commission reviewed at its Aug. 31 meeting, came from a member of Titan Solar Power’s validation team. The company had reached out with the questions about a month before, but the commission did not send a reply. The questions regard a residential solar panel project rather than commercial solar projects, such as Vichy Solar, which the commission has been discussing throughout the year.

The questions in the email include the county’s building codes, wind speed requirements, snow load requirements, battery and generator requirements, engineering requirements and many more.

“There are all kinds of questions here I can’t answer,” Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre said.

“As far as I know, we haven’t set any specifications for these,” Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman said.

Stratman said that after a recent meeting with Montgomery County’s zoning administrator and an agronomy field specialist, he thought planning and zoning might be the only way to protect the county from unwanted facilities.

“I don’t want to do it to the people,” he said. “I want to do it for the people. And this solar thing is just one thing we need to watch out for.”

Fagre said a measure to establish planning and zoning would likely fail if the voters did not know all the details of the plan. He compared it to the county’s use tax, which passed on its first ballot run.

Eastern District Commissioner Doug Drewel said if the county adopted planning and zoning regulations, the revenue from permits would need to be enough to cover the cost of hiring at least two people to oversee it. He added that the person the county picked as an administrator would need to be “sharp.”

“It’s going to be a long, drawn-out deal,” he said. “It doesn’t look like you can take any Joe Blow off the street to do that.”

Drewel asked if the contracts already signed would be exempt from planning and zoning the county would establish later.

“It’s kind of a day late and a dollar short?” he said.

“Who knows if there might not be three more solar projects in the county,” Stratman said. “That’s not the only thing. What if somebody wanted to have a hog processing plant or a strip joint?”

“Or maybe even a prison,” Drewel said.

Fagre said they would probably need to ask the prosecuting attorney questions about existing contracts.

Drewel said before the county invests too much time or money into exploring a vote on planning and zoning, he would like to hear feedback from voters about the idea because it would be up to voters to pass it.

Fagre suggested encouraging voters to stop by during commission meetings to share their thoughts on planning and zoning. The commission meets on Monday mornings and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Vienna. Meetings usually run until at least 10 a.m. and sometimes later.

Drewel suggested sending out a survey.

“I think we ought to look into it,” Stratman said. “We probably ought to run it. If it doesn’t pass, then we tried.”

Stratman said he expects the commission will talk with more people knowledgeable about planning and zoning soon.

In other business, Stratman recommended a few changes to Maries County’s personnel policy manual after reading Osage County’s manual. His suggestions included adding a section defining terms mentioned in the manual and a schedule of paydays for employees and officials.

The commissioners received a draft of the updated manual at the Aug. 31 meeting to take home and read before making any more decisions about it.

During the discussion of the manual, the commission voted to raise the county’s mileage reimbursement from 49 cents per mile to 60 cents per mile.

Stratman also said anyone wanting to safely dispose of old medication can bring it to the dropbox at the east door of the courthouse.