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North Richland Hills gets tough on solar panels

Views:13     Author:Quotes     Publish Time: 2014-12-17      Origin:Site

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS

Despite intense opposition from solar energy supporters, the City Council has approved controls over where residents can place solar panels on their property.

Residents now face restrictions on installing ground mounted solar systems based on lot size and will need a special use permit if they want to install solar panels on the part of a roof that faces a street.

Violators can be fined up to $2,000 a day, though city officials say they will first seek voluntary compliance. Solar systems already installed will be exempt from the new ordinance.

Some homeowners said the new regulations, which the council approved this month, will hurt their ability to improve the environment and seek energy independence.

Mayor Oscar Trevino said that city officials have heard complaints about street-facing solar panels and that the city needs to take into consideration how solar panels will affect the looks of North Richland Hills’ neighborhoods.

Councilman Tim Barth called the ordinance “a first step” that can revisited if it does not work out. He said that he wants to be progressive about energy and that he welcomes solar energy proposals.

“I think a slower approach at this point isn’t a bad idea,” Barth said. “I think it doesn’t mean we’re close-minded. I think what it means is we’re a bit cautious.”

‘Completely ignored it’

Several speakers said they oppose the new rules. They were among an unusually large audience of about 100 people at the Dec. 8 council meeting, when the ordinance was approved.

One Dan Lepinski, who has solar panels on his home.

“The solar panels go beyond what’s best for the environment,” Lepinski said. “It’s a good way for citizens to save a lot of money.”

Lepinski surveyed 105 residents who live in and around North Richland Hills and live near homes with solar panels. He said he has written and signed statements from 97 percent of those surveyed who said they have no objections to solar panels on homes.

“They completely ignored it,” Lepinski recently told the Star-Telegram. “And no one spoke in favor of the ordinance.”

He said North Richland Hills’ ordinance is among the most restrictive in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Under the ordinance, ground-mounted solar panel systems are an accessory structure, such as a shed, and are limited to 500 to 1,000 square feet, depending on the lot size. The solar panels must be covered from public view by “opaque screening.” Residents who own lots of 40,000 square feet or larger could request a permit for a larger system.

‘Giant step backwards’

Ronald Lee Linch Jr. said people knock on his door asking about the solar panels on his house. His neighbors told him they have no objections.

“If this city was truly concerned about aesthetics, they should ban the ugly fracking rigs, ban cars more than 10 years old, ban satellite dishes, ban telephone poles and ban ugly mailboxes,” Linch said.

Solar energy is increasingly popular as the price for solar systems continues to drop because of technology, new financing options, and increased efficiencies from manufacturing to distribution, solar industry officials say. With electrical company rebates and tax credits, a solar-panel system can cost less than half of what it cost five years ago.

North Richland Hills has issued about 65 electrical permits for solar panels in the past four years and about 20 in the past six months, city spokeswoman Mary Peters said.

Linch called the council vote “a giant step backwards.”

“I guess … solar panels are just not pretty enough,” he said.

North Richland Hills gets tough on solar panels
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