The city of Park Ridge is looking to make it a little bit easier for property owners who would like to add solar energy systems to their homes or commercial buildings.
Jim Brown, director of community preservation and development, presented to the City Council on Feb. 25 a list of potential changes to the city’s building and zoning codes that “would remove barriers to solar energy,” which can include the installation of ground- or roof-mounted reflective panels.
One of the proposed changes includes eliminating the requirement for the Park Ridge Appearance Commission to review certain solar panel applications before they are approved.
“That’s probably the biggest change and something that might speed things up for people who want to do solar energy,” Brown said.
Other proposed changes include eliminating “vague” language, a requirement that a building official must determine whether a solar collector panel is “obtrusive,” (it is not the job of building officials to regulate aesthetics, Brown said), and a stipulation that prohibits the solar panels from reflecting light into neighboring homes, Brown said.
Regarding the latter, Brown said solar panels are made to absorb light, not reflect it anyway.
There is also a proposal to clarify the city’s regulations on the height of roof-top solar panels, requiring that they cannot extend four feet beyond the highest point of the roof, Brown said.
If any changes to the city codes are made, they must be approved by the Park Ridge Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. The Planning and Zoning Commission could consider the requests at its first meeting in April, Brown said.
In 2018, there were seven permit requests for solar panels, all on residential properties, Brown said. All but two were approved, he added.
So far this year, two residents have applied to install solar energy systems on their homes, Brown said.
Making changes to the city’s building and zoning codes regarding solar energy can also help the city in its attempt to obtain SolSmart designation, he said.
According to its website, SolSmart “recognizes cities, counties, and small towns for making it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar.”
During last week’s City Council meeting, 5th Ward Ald. Charlie Melidosian asked if the city’s new Sustainability Task Force will also review the proposed code changes regarding solar energy and offer input.
Mayor Marty Maloney, who formed the task force, said some members have already been working with Brown and other city staff on the changes.
“Energy will be one of the topic areas which the task force will focus on,” he said.