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Regulating the sun

Charlton considers new regulations for solar panels

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
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Regulating the sun


This home at 814 Charlton Road in Charlton is fitted with solar panels Tuesday.
This home at 814 Charlton Road in Charlton is fitted with solar panels Tuesday.

— Charlton town officials are considering a new local law that would regulate residential solar photovoltaic panels, which are becoming more common in this rural-suburban, Saratoga County community.

The proposal being reviewed by the Town Board requires solar panels to be located in the rear or side yards of any residential property, and be located at least 100 feet from any neighbor’s property or the road. The goal is to avoid some of the controversies over solar panels that have arisen in other towns.

“We’re all in favor of solar power. We just don’t want them to have any visual impact on people,” said town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge.

The towns of Ballston and Clifton Park both adopted local laws regulating solar panel arrays in recent years after neighborhood disputes. Grattidge said there hasn’t been a problem between neighbors in Charlton that he’s aware of, but officials decided to act before problems arise.

“Our philosophy is if they’re out of sight it isn’t controversial, but we’ve had one located in a side yard, and that got people talking,” Grattidge said.

The town has been getting more building permit applications from property owners looking to generate their own electricity. To date, the town Building Department has been treating them as accessory structures, Grattidge said.

Other than in Ballston and Clifton Park, there are no other communities with local laws on solar panels, said Saratoga County Planner Jaime O’Neill. Across the county, there are more property owners — particularly farmers — seeking to install solar panels, she said, but they have generally been able to be installed without controversy.

New York state offers tax credits that can help offset the cost of installing solar panels.

Under the proposed Charlton law, rooftop and building-mounted solar panels would require only a town-issued building permit, but there would be new regulation for arrays that might appear in someone’s yard. For ground-based or pole-mounted arrays, they must be in a rear or side yard, never in a front yard, under the proposal. Any arrays that exceed 10 feet in height would be required to have an area variance from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

There are also minimum lot-size requirements. At least 40,000 square feet — just less than one acre — would be required for lots on which ground- or pole-mounted arrays are being considered.

The building inspector also would have the authority to require the property owner to plant screenings so the arrays would be less visible to neighbors.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Monday, April 29, at Town Hall.

“We’re looking to get input from the public at this point,” Grattidge said.

The board won’t act that night, Grattidge said.

 
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