Here comes the sun - but with conditions

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:28

    Warwick seeks to regulate solar panels in village’s historic district Warwick — Much discussion was had about solar panels at the regular meeting of the Village of Warwick board of trustees on Nov. 21 at Village Hall. Although the village currently does not regulate solar panels, the mayor and board identified a need to do so especially to preserve aesthetics within the historic district. Mayor Michael Newhard had tasked trustee Barry Cheney to research the zoning matter. “Go deep (and) you could be a trendsetter,” said village attorney Michael Meth, who counseled the board to write positive regulations that guide residents on how to get solar panels rather than discourage their installation. Drafting zoning regulations for solar energy systems is made more difficult because every system is customized to account for such things as trees, building exposure and roof shape. Under current village zoning, freestanding solar panels would be considered an accessory structure that would require a site plan. And those in the historic district are asked to go to the architectural review board. “We could ask the ARB to review every application,” said the mayor. “Now (solar panels are) almost affordable and there’s a lot of benefit given power failures,” said the village attorney, who lost power for five days and is now considering installing solar panels at his home. Meth, who lives in Chester where there are no zoning restrictions for solar panels, believes residents would find the village’s building permit process simpler to navigate than the site plan. Regulate without extreme cost Cheney developed a list of potential zoning regulations including prohibiting freestanding solar panels in most front and side yards while allowing them in rear yards behind screens. Nor does he want to see them installed on walls, front roofs or anywhere they are seen. Meth explained that aesthetics are inadequate for passing general welfare laws; therefore, the board will need to support its regulations with findings. “I think we have to regulate it but not create extreme costs for the homeowner,” Newhard said, who expressed concern that some people would install solar panels illegally if the village put too high a burden on those interested in increasing their energy independence. Another challenge to drafting zoning regulations for solar panels is that properties in the village range in size from small to several acres. Next steps include returning to the drawing board to research solar panels for two zones namely the historic district - primarily Main Street, Oakland and Maple Avenue - and outside of it. In other news: The village board authorized payment of bills totaling $375,062.71. The village DPW continues to pickup tree limbs downed during the recent storms, which has delayed the pickup of leaf bags. The mayor is asking residents to be patient and, if able, to drop off their leaf bags at the DPW garage at any time. The brush pile is open seven days and the DPW is prioritizing tree limb pickup to those that fell from street trees. The Warwick Lions will ring the Salvation Army Bells on Dec. 3, 4, 17, and 18 on Main Street outside of Akin’s Drug Store. The effort raises as much as $4,000 for local charity. The board granted permission to carry over vacation time to Catherine Schweizer for 27.75 hours, Maureen Evans for 52 hours and James Quackenbush for four days. The next regular meeting of the board is on Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Warwick Village Hall, 77 Main St.