West Feliciana Parish now has an ordinance regulating the placement and operation of industrial-size electrical generating plants from solar or wind energy.
Parish President Kenny Havard told the Parish Council on Jan. 9 that solar farms are becoming more popular in Louisiana, but West Feliciana had no ordinance to regulate them.
“We thought it would be prudent to get ahead of it,” Havard said of a solar generating company possibly approaching the parish.
Parish Attorney Dannie Garrett drafted the ordinance the council finally approved on a 4-1 vote after a public hearing, Havard said. Garrett had written the ordinances for Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes.
West Feliciana’s ordinance borrows from the Pointe Coupee version, Havard said.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” he added.
Council member Clay Pinson asked if any projects had been proposed for the parish, and Havard said he did not know of any.
During the public hearing, retired corrections official Kelly Ward suggested the grounds of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola or an industrial park would be ideal sites for a solar venture.
Ward said the ordinance does not mention any industrial tax exemption policy, but he said any tax exemption or other enticement to locate in the parish should be examined in a full public hearing.
Havard, an appointed member of the state board that gives tentative approval to property tax exemptions, explained how the process works and said Gov. John Bel Edwards lowered the amount of the exemption from 100% to 80% of the tax levy over five years, with an option to extend it five more years.
Local taxing bodies, such as the Sheriff’s Office, School Board and Parish Council, could opt out of the exemption, he said.
The program could change dramatically when a new governor takes office next year, Havard noted.
Several people questioned the requirement for a 300-foot, forested buffer zone between a solar farm and the centerline of an adjacent public road, with landowner Melvin Harvey Jr. saying 300 feet is excessive and makes it harder for local property owners to participate in a project because West Feliciana’s terrain is not as flat as Pointe Coupee’s.
The council left the 300-foot buffer zone when it adopted the ordinance, with council member Melvin Young dissenting.
In other action, the council reappointed Harvey, Rhonda Beauchamp and Steve Terry to the parish’s hospital board and reappointed Soraya Landry and Shieda Perkins to the library board.
Library board member Claire Mott did not seek another term, and the council named Kelli Daniel to her seat.