After deliberation into the early morning hours Thursday, the Naperville Plan Commission narrowly approved a slightly revised version of an ordinance that would establish code for renewable energy systems throughout the city.
If passed by the Naperville City Council, the ordinance would establish guidelines for small wind and solar energy systems for both residential and commercial areas.
“We have to step forward in this arena, and we have to make strides and move forward,” said Commissioner Patricia Gustin. “We should afford these opportunities to the residents. It’s a good package; it’s a good ordinance to put on the books.”
A representative for Naperville for Clean Energy and Conservation spoke generally in favor of the new ordinance, but suggested that the city could benefit more with fewer restrictions on systems.
“The way the draft is written is a great starting point. Over time, as people adopt new systems, time will tell whether adjustments or fine-tuning needs to happen,” said Stephanie Hastings of NCEC.
“This new ordinance should provide guidance, it should not provide limits to new energy. Really, we’re just trying to create a baseline here. Those issues will resolve themselves through all the various processes that are part of the democratic process that we already have in place in our city.”
Three commissioners voted against the ordinance Wednesday night, with one commenting that the code was too restrictive, and two because it was not restrictive enough.
Commissioners Greg Bruno and John Herzog, both of whom came out early against any inclusion of wind technology in residential areas, said they did not support the ordinance for that reason.
“I strongly disapprove of the wind ordinance because I don’t believe this is a proven technology in terms of going into an urban or suburban environment,” said John Herzog. “This is a bad idea for Naperville. To allow turbines in the backyards of homes, it’s going to cause noise problems, light problems and other visual complaints.”
But the ordinance severely limits where and how small wind systems could be built in neighborhoods. Only ground-mounted small wind turbines would be allowed in residential areas, and they would be required to have a setback of 1.1 times the total height of the structure, limiting wind power to all but the largest residential properties.
Building-mounted wind systems would be prohibited entirely from homes.
“I’m grossly against the fact you’re not able to put one on your house. I’m shocked that’s in there,” said Jason Morin, resident and manager of Brighton Car Wash, addressing the commission.
“When I moved into my house, there was a network antenna on top of it. It should be a right for somebody to put a turbine on their house as long as it’s properly inspected and has a permit.”
But for Morin, the proposed ordinance, if it passes through the City Council, could be a partial victory. Morin has been attempting to get permission to build a small wind turbine to help power Brighton Car Wash.
The turbine was previously rejected by the council, but could be allowed under the new ordinance.
Still, the ordinance comes with a host of other restrictions: Wind systems in residential areas would need conditional-use approval by the city, as would any ground-mounted solar energy systems, or any roof-mounted solar energy systems that face a public street.
“We voted to make it more restrictive to put solar panels on south-facing homes,” said Commissioner Tim Messer. “I think that is too restrictive.”
Height, particularly for wind systems, was another concern for most commissioners. Wind systems must be above buildings and other objects to catch enough wind to operate efficiently, but some commissioners said height restrictions as high as 150 feet in industrial areas were too high.
In residential areas, turbines would be restricted to 60 feet.
The ordinance also includes restrictions on visibility, signage, illumination, color and noise.
The Plan Commission voted 4-3 in favor of the ordinance, with Commissioners Tim Messer, Greg Bruno and John Herzog voting against. Commissioners Reynold Sterlin and Paul Meschino were absent.
The Renewable Energy Ordinance will next go before the City Council for approval.
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