Huntington Woods working to amend solar ordinance

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 29, 2022

 Shutterstock image

Shutterstock image


HUNTINGTON WOODS — An updated ordinance regarding the placement of solar panels is up for approval in Huntington Woods.

At the June 7 meeting, the City Commission held the first reading of an amendment to Huntington Woods’ solar ordinance. The change, specifically, according to city documents, is language to allow “by right” solar panels to be installed on residential property in the rear yard or side yard of existing structures.

The changes have been under review by the city’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee since 2021.

“The question is, you know, how many people are gonna want solar panels on the front of their houses?” Commissioner Jules Olsman said. “But as our city attorney pointed out, you can’t allow it on one and not allow it on the other. So any questions about the aesthetic aspect of this, you know, has to be balanced by ultimate fairness to residents. It’s not somebody’s fault that they live on the side of the street that doesn’t have as much sun on the back of the house as it does the front.”

In regard to front yard solar installations, city documents state it would require a variance approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals. As a non-use variance, applicants seeking to have solar panels would need to establish a practical difficulty that would prevent the installation and use of these devices on other parts of the property.

Olsman said the city hasn’t been inundated with requests for permits as of now, but this was a change that needed to be made.

“Having listened to umpteen presentations about solar panels, I think within a few years what we’re going to be seeing is technology whereby the shingles themselves are going to be the solar panels and probably eliminate some of these things which, frankly, aesthetically, some of them are not really too terrific that you’d want them on the front,” he said.

The commission will be holding a second reading of the ordinance amendment for its final approval at its next meeting. It currently is scheduled to be held July 5.

“The solar panels today are very, very different than what they were five and 10 years ago, and very frequently you don’t recognize them,” Commissioner Jeff Jenks said. “Our community is more environmentally concerned, and so there may be a much greater interest in shifting as much as they can off the grid to using solar panels.”

“There was some concerns from residents that maybe there was not an interest at the commission level in the ordinance, but I don’t think that was the case,” Commissioner Joe Rozell added. “I think that the case was the prior ordinance needed a lot of work, and I think it’s come a long way to what we see here. It’s a much more simplified version. … I think the ordinance today is a lot more resident-friendly, a lot more workable.”