Alternative approach

Hancock planners aim to incorporate resident suggestions for wind, solar

HANCOCK — The Hancock Planning Commission will hold off on recommending a wind and solar ordinance to the City Council until February so it can incorporate residents’ suggested changes to the language.

The ordinance would allow small accessory units for wind and solar power in any zoning district. Larger systems used for polar generation would be more restricted. Those solar systems would only be allowed in the I-1 industrial district. Industrial-use wind farms would not be permitted at all.

Installations will be required to use materials, colors and other features to help them blend into the landscape as much as possible.

Other elements in the plan include permitted locations, such as restricting solar arrays to the rear or side of the building.

Through in-person comments and correspondence, residents brought up about eight issues where changes might be needed, said Commissioner Steve Walton. He will combine the suggestions in written and public comments for each issue, followed by language for the proposed revisions. The commission will take up the proposed revisions at its February meeting.

The consolidated comments and proposed revisions will be sent to the commenters as well as other audience members who provided their email addresses. Once the Planning Commission approves the changes, the revised document will be made available to city residents before the city council takes it up.

Several residents spoke at a public hearing before Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Frank Fiala applauded the commission’s work on the ordinance. However, he questioned a provision that set the maximum height for an installation at 10 inches above the rooftop.

The installation he’s working on at his house requires some reinforcement on the 40-foot-high roof, which will push the maximum height to 13 inches.

“From the right of way at 40 feet at 13 inches, no one’s going to see it, so I guess I just question where that came from and whether it’s germane to keep it in,” he said.

An audience member pointed out another drawback of the 10-inch rule: This far north, some rooftop users will need to tilt their panels higher to maximize the captured solar energy.

Stephen Roblee suggested adding a minimum level for which the regulations on solar installations would apply. He recommended 2,000 watts — about 800 more than the amount needed to power a toaster. By the definition used in the draft, any solar-powered array would apply, he said — even a small path of lights lining a driveway.

At his house, he uses a 500-watt solar system to charge his cellphones and flashlight.

“Should that be regulated by this ordinance? I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it tends to discourage the types of activities that we want to encourage for the good of our world. We want more solar power, we don’t want to decrease it.”

The commission will next meet on Feb. 27. If the commission approves the ordinance language, it will then go on to the city council, which will have another public comment period.

The current draft of the ordinance is available at cityofhancock.com/events/2668.pdf.


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