The Block Island Times

Planning for a solar energy ordinance

By Stephanie Turaj | Nov 14, 2013

The Planning Board is close to finishing its draft of a new Zoning Ordinance, which would lay out regulations for installing solar energy systems on Block Island.

According to the draft ordinance, the purpose is “intended to provide for and encourage the installation of solar energy systems on Block Island.”

The ordinance would allow for both roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar systems. A property owner looking to build a system must apply to the town building official (currently Marc Tillson). The ordinances list specific size limits and property setbacks required for the solar panels.

The planning board had a lengthy discussion at its Wednesday, Nov. 13, meeting about what the size limit should be on a solar panel, before the applicant has to apply for a special use permit.

After debating the size, board members eventually agreed that if an applicant wants to build a system of up to 600 sq. feet, the applicant will be allowed to have a reduced setback of 15 feet. The system will also not count for the applicants building lot coverage. For a system larger than 600 sq. feet, property owners must meet the property’s spacial standards and setbacks, or apply for a special use permit.

Planning Board Chair Margie Comings said abutters should be allowed input as to the size of the panels. “I think the neighbors need a chance to share their concerns,” said Comings.

The board plans to vote on the final draft of the ordinance at its December meeting. The Town Council will also hold a public hearing on the ordinance before it’s approved.

The board briefly discussed developing an ordinance for wind energy conversion systems (WECS), or wind turbines, but agreed that this ordinance should wait until after the solar ordinance is completed.

At its Nov. 13, meeting, the Planning Board approved three applications.

Approved was an application by the Block Island Early Learning Center (plat 6, lot 90) for the construction of a shed and fence.

Also approved was an administrative subdivision of properties off West Side Road (plats 15, lots 39-2, 39-3). Joe Priestly, attorney for property owners Jane and Gordon Nelson, explained the land currently consists of two non-conforming lots, and the Nelsons want to combine these two lots into one.

The Planning Board voted to give a favorable advisory to the Zoning Board for an application by the 1661 Inn (plat 7, lots 6 and 7). The Inn is applying to change an existing laundry/storage room into a rental inn/home, and needs a special use permit from the Zoning Board.

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