Monday, December 1, 2014

Do city regulations on solar panel installations harm citizens and hamper the free market?

It is hard to draw the line between where public opinion and interests start dictating to homeowners on their own home property.

There has to be public input for city dwellers as to how homeowners use their property. No roosters- no pig pens- no outhouse in the front yard.. BUT where do we draw that line on other more ambiguous issues?

but we do need a boundary where the neighbors would like some say... so how do we solve such a problem...

With a public hearing.

This might not be an accurate representation of the planning and zoning commission at work.
So we have a great local example playing out right now in North Richland Hills. North Richland Hills has had a recent jump in the number of permits for solar installations, and so the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended and the NRH city council chimed in that solar installations on street-facing slopes of a resident’s roof should require a special use permit (SUP). Also, ground-mounted systems more than 500 square feet would also require a SUP.

Julie Thibodeaux in the Greensource DFW website has a great article on the subject. Don’t miss it. Solar advocates say North Richland Hills rule could put a damper on sun-powered technology. City officials worry about esthetics and the crazy homeowner who will hash up the neighborhood.

There has been an outcry. Solar advocates have strong opinions. Maybe you too. The next public meeting on this issue in North Richland Hills is on December 8th at 7:00- show up at 6:00 to sign up if you want to address the meeting. The meeting is at city hall in North Richland Hills. 7301 NE Loop 820. This is a great opportunity to see local politics and democracy work.

The Planning and Zoning commission has tried to remove aggravation and friction from their proposed changes. The want to lower the fees for the SUP from $576 to $50 as well as an expedited application process  that would create a 30-day turnaround. That seems like a no brainer.

Solar panels are expensive but you get to amortize their costs over time. A $576 fee to figure out if you get to have solar panels...  not acceptable. So we will just see how the great minds in political power manage to create a win-win here.

That being  said... solar panels are not a great energy investment. 95% of homes can save much more by investing in energy efficiency up front.

Solar panels are the sexy pair of shoes in green. Not that practical; but, oh quite trendy. But that is a story for another day.

But back to our discussion of where to draw boundaries between the public interest and the individual homeowner. 

Do you think home owners should be able to put solar panels on their home willy nilly- or do you think there should be an overseeing body to make sure one homeowner does not go berzerk.

I don't want to wake up and see this going up on the neighbor's lawn.
Is it possible for a homeowner to create a visual eyesore with solar voltaic devices? What if their roofing faces east and west, and their only solar exposure would have to be put on poles in the front yard right off the street?

I wouldn't much care for that... it is not economically a good idea, but economic investments are in the eye of the beholder. I would really like to see green lawns disappear and have wild flowers and wild spaces flourish in yards. I would have yards become oases for wild birds instead of sterile green monoliths devoid of vibrancy and diversity. But that is again in the eye of the beholder.

Anybody else hate green lawns?

And what about a nice garden patch with fruiting bushes and semi dwarf trees in the front yard? Yes! creating a fruitful and verdant landscape is a big improvement. But how will the neighbors feel?

And so where do we draw that line

Where do we draw the boundary between individual homeowners and the public interest? We better allow stuff that might annoy us a bit if we want the stuff that will make us happy...

And so we settle these issues in public debate and finding allies for the cause and making a big enough fuss to influence people who  are elected by the people. A bit cumbersome, but I cannot think of anything which works better.

Who has something to add?

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