CHARLESTON -- The city has adopted new zoning rules for commercial solar energy systems after officials were approached by those interested in building solar farms in and around the city.

The Charleston City Council OK’d a measure Tuesday that adopts these new regulations. The new zoning code better details rules on solar farms specifically. Mayor Brandon Combs detailed that solar farms will have to have conditional permits in the agriculture zoning district and they will need other approvals in other districts.

Solar installations less than two acres in size will not be governed by these new regulations and will instead be covered by existing code.

For example, these regulations would not affect solar panels on a residential roof.

Charleston City Manager Scott Smith said a number of companies have been looking at constructing solar farms in and around the city and the officials wanted to change the zoning code to accommodate these new interested parties.

This was an effort to align the cites regulations with surrounding communities rules, he said.

“They have been looking at Mattoon, Effingham and a lot of communities around here, Smith said. “We felt it would be best to make sure that the community was protected and that we were also providing those companies that have an interest in expanding or constructing a solar farm here” with an opportunity to build.

Two solar businesses, Cyprus Creek Renewables and Geronimo Energy, inquired about locating a solar farm in the area, Smith noted. Both were conferred with on this move and were in support, according to meeting documents.

“Whether or not they will actually proceed forward and actually construct a solar operation in Charleston is yet to be seen,” Smith said.

Council members also granted $6,705 in tax increment financing (TIF) funding to the owners of the building at 611-613 Monroe Ave., formerly known as Fili's Station for the purpose of providing renovations to the building.

The TIF money will be used for tuckpointing and power washing on areas of the south wall and north wall of the building, Combs said. The TIF project will also include recovering the awning and the front door to the building.

The total cost of the project is $13,410.

Other items approved at the meeting include:

-- Abating the $6.14 million in taxes levied for 2017 to pay off debt for the water treatment plant.

-- Abating the $950,000 tax levied for the year 2017 to pay off debt on the Rotary Pool.

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