North Salem Planning Board Mulls Solar Code Changes

77a680321f2620dbb567_best_f172c67b1c2282be0b0d_ea9f9a348abc04b16f32_IMG_1176.JPG
5f73927270881acef26c_best_5359e021d95f6c44364c_43841_.jpeg
f74c4a1e68c75cd1205b_best_7e503ef94e5460cb68cc_IMG_1178.JPG
77a680321f2620dbb567_best_f172c67b1c2282be0b0d_ea9f9a348abc04b16f32_IMG_1176.JPG

As the popularity of solar energy continues to grow among homeowners, the North Salem Planning Board is considering amendments to the town’s zoning laws regarding the renewable energy source. 
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the panel began debating some newly drafted amendments to the existing town code with regard to solar panel installation systems.  According to the draft document, the amendments seek to “balance associated potential impacts of solar energy systems, while preserving the ability of property owners to install appropriately sized and located facilities within the town’s residential and non-residential zoning districts.”


Planning Board Chair Cynthia Curtis said the intention is to clearly define what an accessory solar energy system is, and at what point the system would require more than just a permit from the town’s building department and instead require approval by the Planning Board. 
She said the current code does not differentiate regulations if solar panels are on the ground or on a house. 


“We’re taking some baby steps in getting it into the code,” she said. “The only thing that we’re making different is if the system is on the ground, and it’s a very large system, it might raise the concerns of neighbors or the neighborhood.”

Sign Up for E-News


The code revision calls for limiting ground-mounted installations to less than 1,000 square feet. In addition, they would also place location restrictions on them. Under the proposed plan, ground-mounted solar installations cannot be built on steep slopes defined as 15 percent or greater; on wetlands; or on designated federal, state and local historic districts. 


Ground-mounted installations also cannot be located in a front yard, and must be set back a minimum of 10 feet behind the front wall of the principal building on the lot to minimize their view from the street and adjacent properties.


The restrictions raised the concern of resident Bill Monti.“Why should there be any limitation at all?” Monti asked. “It’s not a limitation,” Curtis responded. “It’s triggering another level of permit that perhaps a larger system should go before the Planning Board or another board for review.”
Curtis said the town doesn’t want to allow installations to remain unchecked and become “solar farms.”
“I don’t think we’re ready to embrace that right now,” she said. “That’s the position the Planning Board is taking. Every residential property can cover their roofs; it’s just the ground-mounted system that we think needs to be a little bit regulated in case they get very large."


The sentiment was echoed by planning board member Gary Jacobi. 
“We don’t want somebody who’s on a quarter-acre lot putting up a third of an acre of solar panels,” he said. 
Resident Lewis Kohl told the board he didn’t like the code’s restriction on solar’s power capacity.
“I found the comment on the [zoning proposal] document very encouraging and appreciate that you’re encouraging alternative energy,” Kohl said. “But I disagree with the part where the system should not exceed 110 percent of the needs of the premises. If the energy gets sold to someone else and the homeowner doesn’t get credit, why do we care? My panels are old now. They’re not as efficient as newer panels. If I can produce more energy, I’d like to have a system that could power batteries. So a system of 110 percent will allow me to get there.”  


Kohl argued that if homeowners are staying within all the other guidelines, newer systems will be smaller and more efficient and will likely produce more energy than a homeowner needs. 
He has a rooftop solar system installed on his home and a building on the property which, he says, has led to appreciable savings.“There was a time I was paying $1,200 a month for electricity in the summer. With the solar panels, it’s down to $60, if that,” he said. 


Fellow Planning Board member Christopher Brockmeyer said, “At this point I think we are all in agreement that we want to create the distinction between an individual property owner whether it’s a commercial property owner or a private owner, vs. a solar farm that’s producing energy as a for-profit venture.”


Solar energy system zoning codes vary in neighboring communities. For example, there are no solar restrictions or regulations regarding the installation of solar panels either roof or ground-mounted in Somers and Yorktown.  


Bedford zoning code specifies that solar installations be 10 percent or less for rooftop installations and no more than 15 feet above the roof. There are no restrictions on ground-mounted solar panels in Bedford.


In Lewisboro, roof-mounted solar panels must be integrated on the surface layer of the roof structure with no change in relief or projection. Separate flush-mounted solar panels must be located on a rear or side-facing roof, unless it’s ineffective or impossible.


Lewisboro code states ground-mounted solar panels must be located in a side or rear yard only and cannot exceed eight feet in height above the ground and must be fully screened to adjacent properties with either fencing or a combination of evergreen or deciduous plantings.


The North Salem Planning Board did not vote on the proposed amendments and opted to continue the discussion on the proposed changes. Officials say they are planning to have the town’s Historic Preservation Commission weigh in on it, as well as town building inspector Paul Taft at future meetings.


Once the Planning Board makes changes, it will then go to the Town Board, which will weigh in on the amendments and schedule public hearings on the matter.  

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

North Salem

Upcoming Events

Sat, February 24, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Sat, March 3, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Sat, March 10, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Winter Is Fleeting

By some alchemy, winter is flying by us this year. Faster and faster every year of our lives. We’re nearly two-thirds done with the season already. There’s just a month and a few extra days left to withstand. A snap of the fingers and it will be gone. Finished. Another winter to enter into our personal annals, in which we thrived or merely survived.    

Soon ...

I Love 'I Hate Halet'

Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors. Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

He has just ended a star turn in the ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

When you have short hair, it is inevitable that you will spend an inordinate amount of time growing your hair out and then getting fed up and cutting it again. I have been down this hair-brained road several dozen times before, complaining for months until I am convinced my husband is going to cut it all off while I sleep just so he doesn’t have to listen to me whine about it one more ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

'Customers Deserve Explanation' of Ballooning Rates

February 22, 2018

The following is a letter sent from Hudson Valley lawmakers to Carl Taylor, president of NYSEG:

Our offices have been inundated with frustrated constituents who have recently received their electric bills for the month of January. Some claim their bills have quadrupled compared to the previous month. A recent review of your website shows no issuance of a press release to customers warning of ...