By ASHLEY HELMS
Following a letter urging village government to reconsider its rules pertaining to rooftop solar panels, the Board of Trustees is planning to reassess the code so the structures could be approved by land use boards in the future, even if they are visible from the road.
In a letter written by the Committee for the Environment, a village committee that makes suggestions to the Board of Trustees regarding environmental concerns, the committee states the village’s Board of Architectural Review rejected a homeowner’s request for solar panels on the roof. The home, located on 209 Highview St., would have had the panels installed on the front of the roof, facing the road, in order to catch sunlight.
The BAR decided, at an Oct. 17 meeting, solar panels in plain sight would be an eyesore for neighbors. But, according to the Committee for the Environment, the sun-catching devices should be encouraged in the village because relying on electricity derived from fossil fuels and continuing high-energy usage is not sustainable.
Solar panels are electrically connected to a power source and mounted on a supporting structure, where they convert sunlight into useable energy. The panels are comprised of numerous individual panels in order to produce the most power.
According to village code, an application to the BAR can be rejected by a majority vote provided that “the board finds that the building or structure for which the permit was applied would, if erected, be so detrimental to the desirability, property value or development of the surrounding area as to provoke one or more of the harmful effects.”
The harmful effects outlined in the code include excessive similarity or dissimilarity to properties included in a permit application in front of the Board of Architectural Review or the risk of injury or other complications stemming from poor placement of a certain structure.
Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Democrat, said solar panels have to be facing south in order to catch sunlight, which, in the case of the home on Highview Street, would have made the panels visible from the road.
“They’re just looking for aesthetics, not if [the solar panels] actually need to be in a certain place,” Miller said.
The trustee said she found the board’s decision “alarming and upsetting” because solar panels are efficient and good for the environment.
“Aesthetics should be the bottom line item, not the top line item,” Miller said.
Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said the Board of Trustees has authority over the issue because allowing solar panels that are visible from the road would require a change in village code.
“We should look at it; I’m in favor of it,” he said. “We should be looking at geothermal [energy] and upgrading for green technology.”
Miller suggested looking into installing parking structures made specifically for charging electric cars nearby Mamaroneck Avenue. She said electric cars will become more common in the village and having adequate parking for residents and visitors with electric cars will, in turn, bring more revenue into the village.
“It would encourage those drivers to come and spend time and money in Mamaroneck,” she said.
At present, the village is conducting a parking study to find out if extra parking is needed and what the village can do to best utilize the parking it does have.
Going forward, the Board of Trustees plans to begin the process of changing the code relating to solar panels.
Village Attorney Charles Goldberger will draft a change of code proposal that will first be reviewed by the Board of Trustees and then will be sent to the village land use boards for comment.
Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, raised concerns regarding conceptual issues that may arise from drafting a proposal without getting input from the village’s land use boards first.
“This is a policy standpoint, not a legal standpoint,” Potok said.
Assistant Village Manager Daniel Sarnoff said it will be better to have a course of action to focus on before presenting any ideas to the land use boards. A document initiates conversation, he said.
Once the proposal has been drafted by the Board of Trustees and examined by all of the land use boards, Miller said that a public hearing will be scheduled so residents can voice their concerns or support for the code change. The entire process is expected to take a few months, Miller said.