CAPE MAY – The city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and Environmental Commission are at odds whether to encourage or discourage installation of solar panels and wind turbines in Cape May.
HPC is proposing amendments to its design standards that cover alternative energy installations.
Charlotte Todd, chairwoman of the city’s Environmental Commission, brought sample energy ordinances from other towns that encourage use of alternative energy to a Tue., Dec., 7 City Council meeting. She thanked the mayor for promoting Cape May as a sustainable energy community
Todd said the state Senate passed a bill in June that prohibits a municipality from adopting an ordinance that limits the right of a property owner to install solar panels on a residential property. She said the only exclusions were height of solar panels
New technology is creating solar panels, which can be attached to a building‘s exterior with adhesive, said Todd. She said smaller, more efficient, less obtrusive wind turbines are becoming available.
“I guess what we are saying to you is be open in your judgment of this new technology, do not limit it for we the residents,” said Todd.
Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. said he looked through design standard amendments requested by HPC and found two that deal specifically with solar and wind. He said the position taken on those amendments is somewhat different than the sample ordinances the environmental commission was presenting to council.
The mayor said council would need to work with HPC and Environmental Commission and “come up with what’s best for the city.” Mahaney said the city had no right to impede individual property owners in their diligence to conserve energy while still maintaining Cape May’s National Historic Landmark status.
“We probably have a little bit more challenging task than some other towns in the area,” he said.
Todd said she hoped the city would write an ordinance that was very open to changes in solar and wind technology. She said there was no valid research that shows that wind turbines kill birds in any great number.
“We have found there are more birds killed through legitimate duck hunting, cell towers, and windows,” said Todd.
City Solicitor Tony Monzo said HPC requested changes to design standards for three items: solar panels, wind turbines and replacement windows in buildings that are key and contributing to the historic district. He said HPC does not believe wind turbines are appropriate anywhere in the city.
Monzo said HPC does not recommend solar panels but are allowed with various limitations. He suggested City Council hold off on the wind and solar items, consulting with the environmental commission and evaluating the affect of state legislation that may limit the city’s ability to limit those installations. The mayor and council concurred.
HPC’s proposed design standards change relating to roof replacement on key and contributing buildings specify roofs must be replaced “like for like,” said Monzo. As an example, a wood shingle roof must be replaced with a wood shingle roof. He said he could draft ordinances to incorporate the changes.
Todd said she wondered why alternative energy “was being singled out” by the HPC
“Is it that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” she asked. “I as a beholder of beauty, see such beauty in energy related savings systems.”
Todd said HPC’s design standards are not endorsed by the Department of the Interior.
During public comment, resident and former Deputy Mayor Linda Steenrod, said she received approval for solar panels for her home but there was significant concern from HPC that the solar panels could not be seen from the street
“We are kind of shooting ourselves in the foot if we say were not going to do this,” she said. “The world as a whole is trying to become less dependent on oil.”
She said Cape May runs the risk of being in the dark ages relating to energy
Mahaney said next month, council would be formulating a “green team” as a component of the Sustainable New Jersey Program. He said the program awards municipalities that have worked hard to keep their towns greener and conservative of natural resources and have a reduced carbon footprint.
Cape May meets criteria to be one of the top rated green cities in the state, said the mayor. State certification will also give Cape May an advantage for funding, said Mahaney.
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