Town of Marion, NY
Wayne County
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[Added 8-13-2018 by L.L. No. 3-2018]
A. 
Statutory authority; title: This article shall be referred to as "Amending the Zoning Law of the Town of Marion to Regulate Solar Energy Systems" and is adopted pursuant to the authority of Municipal Home Rule Law of the State of New York and §§ 261 to 263 of the Town Law of the State of New York, which authorize the Town to adopt zoning provisions that advance and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community, and "to make provision for, so far as conditions may permit, the accommodation of solar energy systems and equipment and access to sunlight necessary therefor."
B. 
Legislative purpose and intent.
(1) 
The Town of Marion recognizes that solar energy is a clean, readily available, and renewable energy source. The intent of this article is to set provisions for the placement, design, construction, and operation of such systems to uphold the public health, safety, and welfare; and to ensure that such systems will not have a significant adverse impact on the aesthetic qualities and character of the Town.
(2) 
The purpose of this article is to amend language in the Zoning Law to adequately regulate solar energy systems, while advancing and protecting the public health, safety and welfare of the Town of Marion, including:
(a) 
Taking advantage of a safe, abundant, renewable, and nonpolluting energy resource;
(b) 
Decreasing the cost of energy to the owners of commercial and residential properties, including single-family houses; and
(c) 
Increasing employment and business development in the region by furthering the installation of solar energy systems.
(3) 
These amendments to the Zoning Law including adding § 308-47 are intended to promote the effective and efficient use of solar energy systems; and that the present zoning regulations in the Town do not adequately address this type of use. The Town of Marion has determined that comprehensive regulations regarding the development of solar energy systems are necessary to protect the interests of the Town, its residents, and its businesses.
C. 
Word usage and definitions. As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
BUILDING-INTEGRATED PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM
A combination of photovoltaic building components integrated into any building envelope system such as vertical facades including glass and other facade material, semitransparent skylight systems, roofing materials, and shading over windows.
COLLECTIVE SOLAR SYSTEM
An installation owned and benefitting collectively two or more property owners through sharing arrangements, homeowners' associations, or similar cooperative efforts.
GROUND-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
A solar energy system that is anchored to the ground and attached to a pole or other mounting system, detached from any other structures for the primary purpose of producing electricity for on-site consumption.
LARGE-SCALE SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
A solar energy system that is ground mounted and produces energy either for the purpose of off-site sale or consumption or it may serve on-site commercial, industrial, or agriculture needs.
RESIDENTIAL
All residential properties in A-C, L-R, M-R, H-R, B-1, and I-1 Zones or Zoning Districts.
ROOF-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
A solar panel system located on the roof of any legally permitted building or structure for the primary purpose of producing electricity for on-site consumption.
SOLAR COLLECTOR
A photovoltaic cell, panel, or array which relies on solar radiation as an energy source for the generation of electricity or a thermal cell, panel, or array which relies on solar radiation as an energy source for the transfer or storage of energy to heat air or water.
SOLAR ENERGY EQUIPMENT
Electrical energy storage devices, material, hardware, inverters or other electrical equipment and conduit of photovoltaic devices associated with the production of electrical energy.
SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
An electrical generating system composed of a combination of both solar panels and solar energy equipment.
SOLAR PANEL
A photovoltaic device capable of collecting and converting solar energy into electrical energy.
SOLAR THERMAL EQUIPMENT
Equipment that directly heats water or other liquid using light, in which the heated liquid is used or stored for such purposes as space heating and cooling, domestic water heating, and heating pool water.
SOLAR VOLTAIC EQUIPMENT
Any device for the direct conversion of solar energy into electricity; equipment that produces electricity by the use of semiconductor devices, called "photovoltaic cells," that generate electricity when light strikes them.
D. 
Permitting. A zoning permit issued by the Town of Marion is required before any installation covered under § 308-47, Solar energy systems.
(1) 
In all zones, all solar energy or solar thermal energy installations, except residential roof-mounted installations, shall require a special use permit following procedures outlined in Article IV in the Town of Marion Zoning Law.
(2) 
All equipment except collecting solar panels shall be enclosed, or underground, and secured from inadvertent access. A building permit to show compliance with all building codes for structural and fire safety shall be obtained from the appropriate agency. Verification must be provided that reflection and electromagnetic interference are of equal or less impact than manufacturers' specifications and "generally accepted standards."
(3) 
All types of solar installations are permitted under this article in the commercial and industrial zones with a special use permit and site plan review approval except as noted herein.
(4) 
All residential solar installations, ground mounted, are permitted by special use permit if meeting all the safety, size, and setback requirements in this article and all requirements for accessory uses elsewhere in the Town of Marion Zoning Law.
(5) 
Modifications to solar energy systems or solar heat systems that change the scale, design, scope, or purpose of the system require review and/or resubmission to the Town Planning Board.
(6) 
Collective solar systems are permitted in any district with joint application by all owners and users of the products generated and all landowners. A written agreement must be presented, signed by all involved.
(7) 
In the H-R Zone, and on all nonconforming-in-size lots, only roof-mounted solar energy systems shall be installed.
(8) 
Vegetation shall not be removed within 30 feet of a natural or man-made water-course or body for the purpose of installation or improving function of a solar energy system and, if damaged, shall be repaired and restored.
E. 
Solar energy systems.
(1) 
Roof-mounted solar energy systems. Roof-mounted solar energy systems that primarily use the electricity on site are permitted as an accessory use in all zoning districts when attached to any lawfully permitted building or structure subject to the following:
(a) 
Roof-mounted solar energy systems shall only be permitted to generate 120% or 15,000 kwh, whichever is greater, of the annual electrical use of the property on which it is located to be verified with proof of the most recent three years of electrical usage.
(b) 
Roof-mounted solar energy systems shall meet all requirements and restrictions of the zoning district within which they are located.
(c) 
Roof-mounted solar energy systems shall comply with all requirements of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.
(d) 
Property owners shall provide documentation with their permit application that the local fire department has been notified that a roof-mounted solar energy system is proposed for their property.
(e) 
Safety. Concerns including weight of loading, wind resistance, and fire access, including ingress and egress from the entire structure, shall be satisfied as determined by meeting all the building codes (including NYSUFPBC) in effect in the Town of Marion. Prior to operation, electrical connections must be inspected by the appropriate public utility and a licensed third-party agency.
(f) 
Aesthetics. Roof-mounted solar energy system installations shall incorporate, when feasible, the following design requirements:
[1] 
Panels facing the front yard must be mounted at the same angle as the roof's surface with a maximum distance of 18 inches between the roof and highest edge of the system.
[2] 
No panel shall extend above the roof ridge of a sloped roof or within 18 inches of the edge of any roof.
(g) 
Residential roof-mounted solar energy systems shall be exempt from site plan review under this article but shall meet all other Town of Marion land use regulations.
(2) 
Ground-mounted solar energy systems. Ground-mounted solar energy systems that primarily use on site the electricity produced are permitted as an accessory use in all zoning districts subject to the following:
(a) 
Ground-mounted energy systems shall only be permitted to generate 120% or 15,000 kwh, whichever is greater, of the annual electrical use of the property on which it is located to be verified with proof of the most recent three years of electrical usage.
(b) 
Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall meet all requirements and restrictions of the zoning district within which they are located.
(c) 
Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall comply with all requirements of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.
(d) 
Property owners shall provide documentation with their permit application that the local fire department that a ground-mounted solar energy system is proposed for their property.
(e) 
All such ground-mounted solar energy systems in residential districts shall be installed in side or rear yards, and satisfy all safety, size, and setback requirements for accessory structures.
(f) 
All such ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be a minimum height of three feet above grade (excepting supports) with a maximum height as specified for accessory structures in that district or zone.
(g) 
Ground-mounted solar energy systems for any nonresidential use shall meet site plan review under this chapter and all land use regulations.
(3) 
Large-scale solar energy systems. Large-scale solar energy systems are permitted within the B-1 Business District and the I-Industrial District as a primary use or as an accessory use upon issuance of a special use permit and site plan approval by the Town of Marion Planning Board, consistent with the requirements of the Town of Marion Zoning Law. In these B-1 and I-1 Districts, as a primary use, up to 50% lot coverage is permitted. As accessory use, 20% of the lot may be used for the solar installation. A buffer must be installed and the solar installation must be greater than 250 feet from a residence.
(4) 
Large-scale solar energy systems are permitted within the A-C, Agriculture-Conservation as an accessory use (i.e., on the same parcel) to support agriculture production activities up to 120% of actual annual usage as verified by the most recent three years of electricity use. It must be located 65 feet from right-of-way lines, 50 feet from a neighboring property line, and 250 feet from a residence. It will be constructed with a minimum underside clearance of three feet and shall have maximum height of 25 feet.
(5) 
Large-scale solar energy systems are permitted within the A-C, Agriculture-Conservation Zone if such systems are producing electricity or heat primarily (more than 20%) for off-premises sale or consumption. This nonagricultural (industrial) use will have the following additional stipulations apply:
(a) 
There will be permitted a total amount of 240 acres within the Town of Marion Ag District that can be utilized for production of solar power for sale and consumption off-premises under this Subsection E(5). This number of acres is approximately 2% of this A-C District of nearly 12,000 acres that are within Marion Township as it is constituted in 2018, the year of adoption of this article. It is determined that installation of solar electricity or heat-producing systems under this Subsection E(5) that exceeds 2% of that acreage is inappropriate use of Ag land protected under New York State Ag Districts laws and local zoning laws.
(b) 
There must be a fifty-foot setback from an interior property line unless abutting another industrial use parcel. Setback including buffer width shall be 65 feet from the right-of-way. Installation must be buffered and 250 feet from a residence.
(c) 
All panels or arrays must be three feet underside clearance and maximum height of 25 feet.
(d) 
No wooded areas larger than five acres are to be removed for the siting of an industrial solar energy system as regulated in this Subsection E(5).
(e) 
Any and all projects under this Subsection E(5) must be located on a single parcel of 10 or more acres.
(f) 
These installations are considered industrial overlays of a scale set by this Subsection E(5); approved by special use permit and site plan review approval and all stipulations of the B-1 and I-1 Zones shall apply. Zoning automatically reverts back to Agriculture-Conservation (A-C) upon ceasing to operate as a solar energy system or found in noncompliance with permits for one year.
F. 
Submission requirements. For all large-scale solar energy systems, the applicant shall submit the following information with an application for a special use permit and application for site plan approval which may be in addition to the information required on the Town site plan checklist:
(1) 
If the property of the proposed project is to be leased, legal consent between all parties, specifying the use(s) of the land for the duration of the project, including easements and other agreements, shall be submitted.
(2) 
Blueprints showing the layout of the solar energy system signed by a professional engineer or registered architect shall be required.
(3) 
The equipment specification sheets shall be documented and submitted for all photovoltaic panels, significant components, mounting systems, and inverters that are to be installed.
(4) 
Property operation and maintenance plans that shall describe continuing photovoltaic maintenance and property upkeep, such as mowing and trimming.
(5) 
Decommissioning plan. To ensure the proper removal of large-scale solar energy systems, a decommissioning plan shall be submitted as part of the application. Compliance with this plan shall be made a condition of the issuance of a special use permit under this section. The decommissioning plan must specify that after the large-scale solar energy system can no longer be used, it shall be removed by the applicant or any subsequent owner. The plan shall demonstrate how the removal of all infrastructures and the remediation of soil and vegetation shall be conducted to return the parcel to its original state prior to construction. The plan shall also include an expected timeline for execution. A cost estimate detailing the projected cost of executing the decommissioning plan shall be prepared by a professional engineer or contractor. Cost estimates shall take into account inflation. Removal of large-scale solar energy systems must be completed in accordance with the decommissioning plan. If the large-scale solar energy system is not considered decommissioned after being considered abandoned, the municipality may remove the system and restore the property and impose a lien on the property to cover the costs to the municipality.
(6) 
Bond. Proof of a bond with a surety recognized with the Town shall be filed with the Town for one-and-one-half times the cost estimate (alternatively, either an inflation clause using an acceptable index of inflation shall be negotiated or a lesser amount shall be negotiated if deemed adequate by an independent review and acceptable by the Town Board) based on details of the projected cost of executing the decommissioning plan and shall be provided along with the decommissioning plan. A guaranteed letter of credit or cash may be considered in place of a bond if similarly reviewed and accepted. In lieu of posting a bond, the owner or developer shall be permitted to pay to the Town of Marion an amount deemed sufficient by the Zoning Board of Appeals to cover the cost of decommissioning. The cost estimate will be prepared by a professional or contractor. The fund amount shall be paid to the Town upon completion of the grid interconnection or may be paid in annual installments over a period of five years, the first payment being made at the time of grid interconnection. The owner or developer posting funds pursuant to this section shall not earn any interest on the funds posted. The Town shall be permitted to utilize the posted funds to remove the facilities in the event the owner or developer refuses to do so pursuant to the requirements of this chapter. Any funds posted by the owner or developer remaining after the Town causes the facilities to be removed shall be returned to the owner or the developer.
(7) 
PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). The owner of land on which any solar system installed pursuant to this statute that qualifies for an exemption pursuant to Real Property Tax Law § 487 shall enter into a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the Town of Marion for a period not to exceed 15 years and not to exceed the amount the property owner would have been exempt pursuant to § 487.
G. 
Additional standards for issuing a special use permit. The following standards shall be the basis for an approval of a special use permit for a large-scale solar system and shall be satisfied in addition to the general requirements elsewhere in the Zoning Law for special use permits. These standards will, as well, all be considered as part of the site plan review process.
(1) 
Height. Large-scale solar energy systems shall not exceed 25 feet in height when ground mounted. Roof-mounted systems shall adhere to the height requirements of the underlying zoning district and provisions elsewhere in this § 308-47.
(2) 
Setbacks. All solar energy systems shall adhere to the setback requirements of the underlying zoning district.
(3) 
Lot size. Large-scale energy systems shall be located on lots with a minimum lot size of 10 acres.
(4) 
Solar panels shall not occupy more than 20% of the lot except as allowed elsewhere in this § 308-47.
(5) 
All large-scale solar energy systems shall be enclosed by fencing to prevent unauthorized access. Warning signs with the owner's contact information shall be placed on the entrance and perimeter of the fencing.
(6) 
Reasonable accessibility for emergency services vehicles shall be required and no photovoltaic system shall be permitted or installed until evidence has been given to the Town Clerk that the local fire department has been notified and verification that fire department concerns have been addressed.
(7) 
To the extent practical, all new distribution lines to any building, structure or utility connection must be located below ground.
(8) 
All solar energy equipment must have a UL listing or equivalent.
(9) 
All active large-scale solar energy systems shall meet all requirements of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code and shall be inspected by the Town of Marion Code Enforcement Officer.
(10) 
Utility notification. No grid-tied photovoltaic system shall be installed until evidence has been given to the Town Board that the owner has been approved by the utility company to install the system. Off-grid systems shall be exempt from this requirement.
(11) 
Buffer zones shall be proposed and require approval of the Town of Marion Planning Board during the permitting process. There shall be plantings/fencing on the right-of-way side of the perimeter fencing, to screen the solar structures.
(12) 
Appropriate review shall be undertaken to determine the potential environmental impact of a project, including a State Environmental Quality Review, as well as site plan review as outlined in the Town of Marion Zoning Law.
(13) 
No two or more parcels, whether one or multiple owners, may support one solar energy system installation.
(14) 
A solar energy system special use permit must be reviewed every five years. This process would involve return to the approving agency to review compliance and also to consider any changes or upgrades the applicant may wish to consider.
H. 
Applicable to all solar systems.
(1) 
Abandonment. Solar energy systems are considered abandoned after 366 days without electrical energy generation and must be removed from the property within one year of written notice.
(2) 
All permitting fees for solar energy systems shall be governed by § 308-30 of this chapter.
(3) 
Penalties for a violation of this chapter shall be governed by § 308-4.
I. 
Severability/validity. If any part or provision of this article, or the application thereof, to any person or circumstance be adjudged invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction, such judgment shall be confined in its operation to the part, provision or application directly involved in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered, and shall not affect or impair the validity of the remainder of this article, or application thereof to other persons or circumstances, and the Town Board of the Town of Marion hereby declared that it would have passed this article or the remainder thereof had such invalid application or invalid provision been apparent.
J. 
Repealer. All ordinances, local laws and parts thereof inconsistent with this article are hereby repealed.
K. 
When effective. This article shall take effect immediately when it is filed in the Office of the New York State Secretary of State in accordance with § 27 of the Municipal Home Rule Law.