REVIEWING SOLAR INSTALLATIONS IN OUR COMMUNITIES Sustainable Communi/es and Campuses Conference
Inﬂuencing Solar Development through Zoning • Develop purposes for zoning by-‐law that direct ac/ons on solar installa/ons • Establish zones where allowed by-‐right • Integrate solar into all key sec5ons of by-‐law to be func/onal: – Deﬁni/ons (solar facili/es, height of buildings, etc) – Exemp/on from building height restric/ons – By right accessory use to residen/al, ins/tu/onal, or commercial
Review of Proposed Development • Use of special permits to review and direct solar installa/ons in certain loca/ons, such as residen/al zones or on agricultural or forested land • Use of site plan review to control appearance and features without ability to prohibit • Integrate solar provisions into historical review • Integrate solar access protec5on from development on abuGng land
Characteris=cs of Solar Installa=ons • Can be installed very close to the roof • Have the reﬂec/vity value of gravel • Are quiet • Can be low to the ground • Can be considered a pervious use, par/cularly in ﬂat areas • Can be installed in a way to not disturb the soil structure • Have a useful life/me of 15-‐25 years
Zoning provisions consistent with the purposes of the by-‐law • Purpose sec/on of zoning delineates the reasons for zoning. These tradi/onally include: – “provide adequate light and air” – “prevent overcrowding of land” – “conserve value of land and buildings… prevent blight” – Implement the master plan – Can also include purposes like “to support the development of photovoltaic collec/on systems” and “provide access to solar radia/on”
How Zoning Conceptualizes Solar Installa=ons • Solar installa/ons can be roof-‐mount or ground-‐mount; principal or accessory use • Primary sensi/vity concerns under zoning appear to be: – Roof-‐mounts in historic districts or on historic buildings – Ground-‐mounts in most loca/ons as accessory uses or principal uses, in visible loca/ons, par/cularly in residen/al zones – Ground-‐mounts on agricultural or forested lands
Requiring a Special Permit (SP) • Can use special permits to limit loca/ons and provide review for “problema/c” uses • OZen required for ground-‐mounts in residen/al loca/ons or visible loca/ons to prohibit or regulate use (screening, etc.) • Typical ﬁndings to be made to issue a SP: – Use is in harmony with general purpose of by-‐law; – Public beneﬁt – Appearance not detrimental to the neighborhood – No nuisances created – noise, odors, etc.
Require Site Plan Review (SPR) • Decide condi/ons under which SPR is required • SPR typically requires: surveyed plan with topo lines; engineered drawings of all elements of the installa/on; loca/on on site; impact on stormwater and contribu/on to impervious surface; screening; and more • For larger sites, informa/on on site topography and survey is not available, and likely not necessary • SPR requirements may be excessive for most projects and some requirements should be waived
Princeton University – largest campus collector
Appalachian State University – roof mount on new residence hall
Solar in Historic Districts/Proper=es • Goal is to preserve character-‐deﬁning features • Review on new construc/on vs. on historic proper/es can be diﬀerent • Secretary of the Interior standard 2-‐retain historic character; Secretary of the Interior standard 9 – new work shall not destroy key historic materials • Need to be placed on rooﬁng less than 2 years old • Minimize visibility • Restrict only on roof with historic rooﬁng material, such as a slate roof, or when signiﬁcant diminu/on of appearance
Guilford College – installa=on on an historic campus building
Solar at Agricultural Sites • General characteris/cs of solar on farms: – Larger systems (between 50 and 200kw) – May require SPR or SP due to size alone – Likely ground mounts, although can be roof mounts – Area is likely not shown on a surveyed plan, or near survey points – Can use foo/ngs or ballast to minimize disturbance of farmland
Solar Access – the big picture • Two issues -‐ solar rights and solar easements • Interpreta/on of US law is that there is no common law access to sunlight, so this needs to be included in state law. MA state law provides right to locate a collector despite prohibi/ons in condo or home-‐owner associa/on documents • State laws are also required to have access to easements over abuGng land that might be altered to block access to sunlight (easement) • Massachuseds considered to have one of the best models for state laws protec/ng rights and easements, but these have not been integrated at the local level
Solar Access • Chapter 40A, Sec/on 9B – “Zoning ordinances or by-‐laws may encourage use of solar energy systems and protect solar access by regula/on of the orienta/on of streets, lots and buildings, maximum building height limits, minimum building set back requirements, limita/ons on the type, height and placement of vegeta/on and other provisions” – “Solar energy systems may be exempted from set back, building height, and roof and lot coverage restric/ons” – “may provide that such solar access permits would create an easement to sunlight over neighboring property”
• “may also specify what cons/tutes an impermissible interference with the right to direct sunlight granted by a solar access permit and how to regulate growing vegeta/on that may interfere with such right” • “may provide standards for the issuance of solar access permits balancing the need of solar energy systems for direct sunlight with the right of neighboring property owners to the reasonable use of their property…” • “may also provide a process for issuance of solar access permits including, but not limited to, no/ﬁca/on of aﬀected neighboring property owners, opportunity for a hearing, appeal process and recorda/on of such permits on burdened and beneﬁted property deeds”
• Allows the crea/on of solar access permits that create a regulatory easement over the land of abuders to a solar energy system requiring that new vegeta/on be avoided or pruned to assure solar access to the solar energy system. • The sec/on went on to suggest municipali/es could create solar maps showing lots burdened by solar easements.
Other Legal Support for Solar Easements • Chapter 184, Sec/on 23C – any provisions prohibi/ng solar installa/ons in a deed are void • Chapter 187, Sec/on 1A, Solar Easements – “Any easement of direct sunlight may be acquired over the land of another by express grant or covenant, or by a solar access permit as set forth in sec/on nine B of chapter forty A – Sets out the important provisions to include when preparing a solar easement
Provisions in Beverly Zoning • “When a solar energy collec/on system is installed on a lot, accessory structures or vegeta/on on an abuGng lot shall not be located as to block the solar collector’s access to solar energy.” • Protects from shading between 9am and 3pm • Protects area of collector no greater than 50% of heated ﬂoor area of structure • Applies to accessory structures and plan/ngs installed aZer installa/on of the solar structure • Creates a system to ﬁle with the City Clerk showing date of installa/on and descrip/on of the site
Op=ons • State model provides op/ons. These and other by-‐laws that can act as models can include: – Allow by-‐right in most cases – Require special permits only in those cases where the installa/on characteris/cs are most sensi/ve – Don’t require, or simplify, site plan review for most installa/ons, or require only for the largest or most visible installa/ons – Allow ﬂexibility in historic districts to truly consider the appearance; don’t restrict on new construc/on – Require installa/on that does not disturb the soil structure on farmland, but don’t prohibit it
Resources • www.planning.org/research/solar (series of brieﬁng papers) • Massachuseds General Laws MGL, Chapter 184 (General Provisions Rela/ve to Real Property), Sec/on 23C (Solar Energy Systems) • MGL Chapter 187 (Easements), Sec/on 1A (Solar Easements) • ITS No.52: Incorpora/ng Solar Panels in a Rehabilita/on Project. Na/onal Park Service. US Dept. of the Interior. August 2009. • Developing Design Guidelines for Solar Panels. News from the Na/onal Alliance of Preserva/on Commissions. 9-‐10, 2009 • Installing Solar Panels on Historic Buildings. North Carolina Solar Center • A Comprehensive Review of Solar Access law in the United States.Solar America Board for Codes and Stands. www.solarbcs.org • MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources. hdp://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/agr/about/divisions/energy-‐eﬃciency-‐conserva/on-‐renewables-‐program-‐generic.html
Carolyn Brid, AICP Community Investment Associates firstname.lastname@example.org (978) 356-‐2164
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