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City of Rochester
City Hall Room 308A, 30 Church Street
Lovely A. Warren
August 20, 2015
TO THE COUNCIL
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Re: Zoning Text Amendment
Transmitted herewith for your approval is legislation amending the Zoning Code of the City of
Rochester by adding Solar Energy Systems to the list of Specially Permitted Uses in the M-1
Industrial-District, 1 20-83; corresponding regulations to Additional Requirements for Specified
Uses, §120-1482; and Definitions, §120-208.
Solar energy technology, which converts sunlight directly into electricity, is a key priority for the
City of Rochester’s clean energy efforts, as embodied in the City’s 2009 Climate and
Environmental Protection Resolution. The purpose of the proposed text amendment is to help
ensure that Solar Energy Systems are sited and maintained in a way that best protects human
health and the environment, and minimizes impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and on the
City’s scenic, natural, and historic resources. The proposed additions to the Zoning Code are
The City Planning Commission HELD this case at their July 20, 2015 hearing to give the City
additional time to address the concerns of the Maplewood Neighborhood Association (MNA) and
the City Planning Commission. Attached is the letter that was submitted by MNA and the City’s
The City Planning Commission held an informational meeting on the proposed text amendment on
Monday, August 17, 2015. No one except the applicant spoke in support of the amendment, and
no one spoke in opposition. By a vote of 5-0-0, the Planning Commission recommended approval.
The minutes and recommendation are attached.
A public hearing is required for the zoning text amendment.
Lovely A. Warren
City Planning Commission
City Hall Room 125B
Rochester, NY 14614
July 17, 2015
The Maplewood Neighborhood Association has concerns about the pro po’ed new Zoning changes for
Solar Energy Systems contained in July’s meeting Agenda Case 1, Ffle Numbtr -01-15-16. As a
neighborhood that contains or bounds upon a large volume of the offected M-.Y pace, these changes
could significantly affect Maplewood in the future.
ln particular we are concerned with some aspects of the proposed anitndrnents to Artk hi Xviii, 120148.2:
-Subsection B exempts the height of the Solar Energy System fSE5) from the ma imum building height of
the district. This would not only theoretically allow mirror/towr lar ystems (dangerous and highly
intrusive), but also make other kinds of systrms extremely vllbk’ ated ov all th other buildings.
We strongly recommend that this provision be s1rcken or limited to a certain rnodcst height (e.g 110
more than 1 additional story over 1hrrurrent rnaxmum heij sit).
-Subsection E, which requift s removal of the svst* m, appear. to bc urn nforce ible. We strongly
recommend either the placing of a bond for removal or requirement fo evidenn of removal
provisions in any lease. Remoiil of solar array; invnlve signitiant memounts & hazardous matersals and
is much more Involved than slmpk. buildin
-We request that the following requirements d1.t be ddd as additional cuhetions:
Require opaque screening (via fence or berm; of solar array that dbut or bound on land
zoned other than M-1 (especially R-1).
Require signage on the outside of said screenlog materials that specifies current contact info
for both the owner of the property and the operator of the solar equipment, to enable reporting
and remediation of any hazardous conditions or complaints.
1286 Dewv Araie
Rzx’hwr, NY 1463
you specifically limit
Regarding the proposed amendments to !2O-2O8rongrfadvocate that
tower/mirror solar energy systems.
allowed solar energy systems to solar panel
feat, and are threats to wildlife in the area.
Tower/mirror systems create huge amounts o
ne the decision until a
We would welcome further discussion of14tWWbuId like to postpo
William L. ColIin
1286 Dcwey Avenue
Rochester, NY 14613
City of Rochester
Neiglortiood and Business Development
City Hall Room 1258,30 Chwch Street
Rochester, New Yodc 14614-1290
Bureau of Planning
August 4, 2015
Mr. William L Collins, President
Maplewood Neighborhood Association
1286 Dewey Avenue
Rochester, New York 14613
Re: Proposed solar energy zoning amendment
Dear Mr. Collins:
Thank you for your letter of July 17, 2015 regarding the proposed zoning amendment for Solar
Energy Systems. In addition to your letter, Ms. Kim Hare provided comments on behalf of the
Maplewood Neighborhood Association at the July 20, 2015 public hearing on the proposed
zoning changes. As your letter and Ms. Hare’s testimony correctly note, It is essential that the
City protect the Integrity of the community and the rights and value of neighboring properties.
Therefore, we have revised the proposed amendment in response to the concerns raised by you
and others and scheduled a new Planning Commission public hearing on August 17, 2015 for
review of the revised amendment. The revised regulations will be available on the City Planning
Commission’s web page (wwctof rochester jov/olannthgcommsIon) on August 10, 2015.
Currently, the City’s zoning code only addresses solar energy systems on a private scale as an
accessory use, such as those mounted on the roof of a house or business. The proposed changes
address solar energy systems on a larger production scale, such as the use of a property
exclusively as a solar farm. In the proposed zoning change, such solar energy systems would be
limited to M-1 Industrial zoning districts as specially-permitted principal uses.
Please let me address the specific concerns expressed by you and Ms. Hare, and explain how the
proposed zoning changes seek to avoid adverse Impacts of large-scale solar energy uses on
neighboring residential areas:
Mirror I tower systems. The proposed zoning amendment permits photovoltoic solar
energy systems, not concentrated solar power systems, which use mirrors to concentrate
light to create energy and often utilize tower structures. We have revised the proposed
zoning amendment to clarify that restriction in the definition of solar collector.
Panels for the photovoltaic solar systems permitted by the proposed zoning
amendment would be Installed either In horizontal ground mounted systems or horizontal
Maplewood Neighborhood Association Page 2
rooftop systems, and would not be markedly taller than existing buildings in the M-1
The Planning Commission and public will have the opportunity to review the height and
profiles of solar energy systems as part of the special permit review process and to evaluate
whether the height or appearance has the potential to adversely affect neighborhood
It’s Interesting to note that technology appears to be advancing towards flexible, thin-film
photovoftaic panels that can be Integrated Into the material of buildings, such as siding,
roofing, and even transparent solar power windows. Such building-integrated photovoftaics
would also be evaluated during the special permit review process and would be subject to
zoning requirements pertaining to buildings.
Noise. Several peer-reviewed studies conclude that solar panels themselves do not make
noise,astheyhavenomov1ngpartsThe-lnverters, which convethe electric from toAC
power release a low hum, which cannot be heard 100 feet away, even on very large solar
Installations. As part of the special permit review process, a noise study by an acoustical
engineer can be required and/or the Inverters can be required to be located In the middle
of the solar farm.
• Glare I aircraft hazards. Solar panels are designed to absorb (not reflect) light to convert to
electricity. Most panels now contain two layers of anti-reflective coating which further
reduce reflection and increase sunlight absorption. Studies have shown that the reflectivity
of solar panels Is similar to that of grass or tree leaves. Terminals at many airports, Including
the Greater Rochester International Airport, have rooftop photovoftaic solar panels, which
are not a hazard to aircraft.
Buffers I screening. Currently, required screening in M-1 zoning districts can include an 8foot high fence and a 10-foot wide perimeter landscape strip. As part of the special permit
review process, the Planning Commission could require fencing lined with black vinyl (which
has been determined to blend very well with natural habitats), opaque fencing, or a buffer
consisting of a mixture of deciduous and needle-leaf trees, shrubs, bushes, or other
landscaping. We have revised the zoning amendment to require each solar energy facility
applicant to provide a screening/landscaping plan to the Planning Commission for review.
Contact Information signs. We have revised the amendment to specify that the applicant
shall provide to the Planning Commission for review a proposed program for safety and
emergency contact signage.
Removal. The proposed amendment requires the owner to remove solar energy systems
no longer in use. Existing State and local laws and enforcement personnel concerning
construction, demolition, safety, and hazardous waste management will assure that the
process Is conducted in a safe and environmentally sound way.
Mapiewood Neighborhood Association Page 3
Prooertv values. The Planning Commission will have the opportunity to review this
question for each application as part of the standard special permit review criteria. We
have not found any authoritative studies that condusively demonstrate that the values
of residential properties are affected, either positively or negatively, by adjacent large-scale
solar energy systems. Please keep in mind that the proposed zoning changes would only
permit solar energy systems on properties that cannot be marketed for industrial uses.
Essentially, this means they will most likely be sited on long-vacant or long-abandoned
properties, typically brownflelds. Putting brownfieids into productive is unlikely to reduce
property values for adjoining landowners.
If you have questions about the technical aspects of solar energy systems, please contact Anne
Spaulding. Anne is the City’s Energy and Sustalnability Manager, and can be reached at 428-7474
Thankyou again for your comments. We lok-forwardtocontlnulng thisdiscusslon on solar
energy systems as a principal use and working together to develop appropriate regulations.
Interim Director of Planning and Zoning
cc: David Watson, Chair, City Planning Commission
Anne Spaulding,, Energy and Sustalnability Manager
Tom Warth, City Attorney
Jason Haremza, interim Staff to the City Planning Commission
R4ThODUCTORY TO. 2.S
Amending the Zoning Code, Chapter 120 of the Municipal Code with regard to
solar energy systems
BE IT ORDAINED, by the Council of the City of Rochester as follows:
Section 1. Chapter 120 of the Municipal Code, Zoning Code, as amended, is hereby
further amended by amending Sections 120-83 and 120-208 and adding Section 120-148.2 as
Article Xl. M-1 Industrial District
§ 120-8. Permitted uses.
The following uses are allowed as special permit uses in the M-1 District:
P. Solar energy system, subiect to a marketability analysis as set forth in § 120-192. and
subiect to the requirements for specified uses in § 120-148.2.
Article XVIII. Additional Requirements for Specified Uses
120-148.2. Solar enemy system
Solar energy systems shall be subject to the following requirements:
A. The application for any approval of a solar energy system under this Chapter shall include:
LU A screening/landscaping plan that specifies the locations, elevations, height, plant
species, and/or materials that will comprise the structures, landscaping and/or grading
used to screen and/or mitigate any adverse aesthetic effects of the system: and
A detailed safety plan specifying the measures that will be used to prevent public access
to unsafe areas and to provide for emergency response, including but not limited to: the
location, height, materials, and colors of fencing and other barriers to access and a
safety signage plan that contains the locations, sizes and text of signs that will be used
to warn the public away from unsafe areas and that shall include the name and phone
number of an official of the owner or operator who can be contacted in the event there is
an emergency or any question about safety.
B. No element of the system shall reflect sunlight or glare onto a neighboring property, public
right-of-way, or aircraft flight path.
C. All solar energy system structures shall meet the district setbacks, provided that the setback
from areas zoned or used residentially and from public rights-of-way shall be no less than 50
D. No grid tied solar energy system shall be installed until evidence is provided that the owner
is approved by the utility company to install the system.
E. The solar energy system shall be removed, at the owner’s or operator’s expense, within 180
days of determination by the Director of Planning and Zoning that the system is no longer
being maintained in an operable state of good repair or no longer supplying solar power.
jfl Removal shall include solar collectors, cabling, electrical components, accessory
structures, and any associated facilities below grade.
Disturbed earth shall be araded and re-seeded, unless the Director of Planning and
Zoning approves a written reguestby the property-owner that internal roads or other site
improvements are not to be restored.
Article XXVI. Definitions
When used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings herein ascribed to them.
A device, or combination of devices, structure or part of a device or
structure (i.e., array, panel, etc.) that transforms direct photovoltaic solar energy into thermal,
chemical or electrical energy and that contributco cignificantly to a ctruoturc’c cnergy supply.
Solar collectors may be attached to or detached from principal structures.
SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
A complete design or assembly consisting of a solar energy
collector, an energy storage facility (where used) and other components for the diotribution of
transformed energy. Passive solar energy systems are included in this dofinition, but not to the
oxtont that they fulfill othor functions such as structural and rooroptional for the transformation,
processing, storage, transmission, and/or distribution of ohotovoltaic solar energy for the
purposes of space heating and cooling, electricity supply, and/or water heating.
SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM, ACTIVE
A solar energy system that requires external
mechanical powor to move the collected hoat.
SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM, PASSIVE
A solar energy system that uses natural and
Section 2. This ordinance shalt take effect immediately.
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