TINTON FALLS – To encourage alternate energy projects but avoid complaints from neighbors, the Borough Council is considering giving more responsibility to the Zoning and Planning boards for wind and solar applications.
The council discussed the possibility of changing the ordinances governing wind and solar installations at the Feb. 1 workshop meeting, where Councilman Gary Baldwin suggested changing the existing ordinance.
“What came through to me from the Planning Board is they still need direction from this body in a couple of areas,” said Baldwin, who also serves on the Planning Board.
The current ordinance allows wind turbines and solar panels as accessory uses and sets standards based on property lot size, regardless of zone.
Baldwin said the problem is that the Planning and Zoning boards are not involved with decision-making regarding wind and solar applications.
“What really became apparent was this ordinance was designed to give guidance so that the Planning Board and Zoning Board aren’t involved with wind and solar decisions,” he said. “They’ve done that by simply saying that if you want to put up a wind system, you have to have a minimum lot size.
In June, the council passed an ordinance setting the standards for wind turbines and solar panels based on an ordinance from Galloway Township.
Properties of 1-3 acres would be permitted to install wind turbines up to 6 feet tall, and properties over 3 acres would be able to install turbines up to 12 feet tall. No more than one wind turbine would be permitted per residential property.
The ordinance also addresses solar-energy systems, specifying that the solar panels shall not exceed a height of 12 inches from the rooftop, and “ground arrays” should not exceed a height of 12 feet.
The ordinance also states that ground systems must not create a glare for adjoining properties and will not be permitted in a front yard or within 20 feet of a property line.
Baldwin said at the meeting that there are some zones in the borough where some of the properties meet the minimum standards but most do not.
“It’s really inconsistent to have a 75-foot tower where everything around me is smaller, and that may become offensive to those people who are there,” he said. “When you get down to R-3 and R-4, those are small acreage but there could be some in those zones where someone has an acre or two.”
Baldwin said that most solar applications are smaller scale, but the wind turbine applications would be the more obtrusive projects.
However, he also said that he has been told that most of the borough experiences up to 5 knots of wind, which would not be ideal for wind turbines.
Councilwoman NancyAnn Fama said that some of the solar panels could be obtrusive for neighbors.
“With the solar panels, some of these installations could be quite large,” she said. “We think of these small, little panels but there is a house that I’m thinking about right now that just converted its entire roof.”
Baldwin said one of his aims is to ensure that surrounding neighbors are notified of larger-scale projects and have a chance to voice concerns.
“When you talk about wind power and things like that, then I think you need to consider the neighbors,” he said. “Then the boards will look at where it’s at, what’s around, property [owners] will be notified and people will have a chance to come in.
“I do believe we have an obligation to establish an ordinance that protects everybody in the general area,” he added.
Borough Attorney Brian Nelson suggested that the council might want to change the ordinance to allow different standards in different zones, also suggesting that the creation of a hybrid standard that looks at both lot requirements and zoning.
“I guess the fundamental way is to look at your list of zones and say, are there certain zones where we just don’t want people putting these towers up for windmills,” he said. “There might be some zones that are kind of in-between where you can do a hybrid arrangement.”
He suggested that the borough consult with its planner Paul Gleitz, of Heyer, Gruel & Associates, about what the specific regulations should be for each zone.
Nelson also suggested that the borough make sure that the new rules do not result in too many applications for the boards.
“You have to strike a balance between getting flooded with applications and protecting the interest of the neighbors,” he said.
“You could potentially have a bunch of angry neighbors and then you realize that maybe the ordinance maybe was a little too inclusive,” he added. “You are still going to need standards, but I guess the suggestion is to delineate the standards by zone based on the general nature of those zones.”
Councilman Scott Larkin said that the borough should not give all the power to one of the boards and that the council should set some of the standards.
He also suggested that the council change the standards in order to attract environmental projects.
“I do thinkwewant to foster some level of environmental stewardship, encouraging on some level the solar system,” Larkin said. “Maybe one thing we can do is to lower the minimum standards.”
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