Planning Commission – 17 June 2014

The Tortured Path of the Solar Panel Ordinance


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With four public hearings on the agenda … several of which have attracted a lot of public interest over the months … we joked about how we would be driving home in full dark as the meeting got ready to go. With television shows I wanted to watch myself, I was hoping I would be wrong. As it turned out, I was wrong. Chairman Joe moved us through the hearings with businesslike precision.

Tom moved through the preliminaries in less time than the agenda allowed, so Chairman Joe proposed that in the future, “work meetings” be limited to two hours. I have one question: “How?” Nobody forces these folks to go on and on. The rest of us have no guaranteed right to speak at all. (I have a suggestion!! Cover the issues in advance in a “public and accountable” Internet forum! What a concept!!)

Only twelve people were seated when the meeting started. (A few more came in later.) Since the new solar panel ordinance would be considered, I had hoped for more … but we made up for quantity with quality.

Parking Facility on Lion Boulevard

Say goodbye to another chunk of open space in Springdale. I mourn its loss but I didn’t oppose it in the public hearing because, legally, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Seriously, we do need the parking if we’re going to run an amusement park for California here …

Thanks to a citizen question, I learned that a house and a store are being planned for the OTHER side of Lion Boulevard. It isn’t on any agenda yet. Stew Ferber knew all about it. Stew knows what is happening to every square inch of ground above the Hurricane fault. This is exactly the kind of thing that it would be great to know about and which could be posted here. Stew? Apply for an account!

I learned something during the meeting about the way ordinances work. The parking facility was proposed as a “conditional use permit”. That means there are specific conditions written into the town code that have to be satisfied. I always thought that if only those specific conditions were satisfied, then the permit had to be granted. I learned that the commission can attach new conditions as part of the permit too, as long as they are “reasonably” related to the conditional use. The next time a “conditional use” comes up for a hearing, we – the “people who just live here” – should consider thinking about all the conditions that should be attached to the use and bring them up in the public hearing. The commission members did think of a bunch of ideas during the meeting, but it was a confused process because several commissioners wanted to add and/or debate them while the motion was being stated. (I wonder how much this process could have been improved by working out these issues in advance in a “public and accountable” Internet forum? What a concept!)

Aircraft and Sign Ordinances

Both of these were pretty much settled by months of deliberations before this meeting. Mike Marriott didn’t think the changes in the sign ordinance were necessary and voted against it. One person asked if they would be able to fly their four foot wingspan model airplane. Tom said, “Yes, in Hurricane.”

Solar Power

This was the most significant item on the agenda, by far, and it was where the quality of the people who showed up to speak against it made the difference.

All of the comments during the meeting … and most of the people who were still in the audience spoke up … were completely opposed to this ordinance. (A husband and wife who were involved in the original dispute that caused this whole ordinance to be considered in the first place both wrote emails, but they didn’t show up in person.)

I suspect that most of the commissioners had their minds made up before they came to the meeting due to the long, tortured process that this ordinance change has been through. But to their credit, the testimony of the people who spoke on Tuesday made a difference. I usually don’t speak at these things since I believe that written comments can be more carefully considered and more widely read by all of the members of the ZiCC community, but this was a more important issue than most. Here’s the statement I made to the commission.

I have listened to every discussion of the question of solar panels over the months both here and in the Springdale town council. — I would like to be counted as being against this proposal. My objections have been fully covered in half a dozen articles I have written at my website: – so I won’t go over them here.

But as just one example to illustrate the damage that will be done as a result of adopting this proposal, the Springdale town council discussed how solar power could be used to improve the parking facility that was discussed in the first public hearing tonight. Those ideas would not be allowed if this ordinance is adopted. In short, this ordinance will disallow solar panel innovation in Springdale.

In my view, this ordinance will only have the effect of making it harder to install solar power and will make Springdale less environment friendly. In my view, the only justification is to make Springdale more like a typical California suburb and less like Springdale. In short, there is no justification.

The ordinance change was tabled pending consideration at a future meeting.

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