[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Webster as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Adopted 11-17-2016 by L.L. No. 3-2016]
This Zoning for Solar Energy Law is adopted pursuant to §§ 261-263 of the Town Law of the State of New York, which authorize the Town of Webster to adopt zoning provisions that advance and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community and "to make provision for," as conditions may permit, the accommodation of solar energy systems and equipment and access to sunlight necessary therefor.
This Zoning for Solar Energy Law is adopted to advance and protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the Town of Webster, including:
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.
- 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 structure, 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 primarily for the purpose of off-site sale or consumption.
- ROOF-MOUNTED SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM
- A solar panel system located on the roof of any legally permitted building or structure for the purpose of producing electricity for on-site or off-site consumption.
- 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.
The requirements of this article shall apply to all solar energy systems installed or modified after its effective date, excluding general maintenance, repair, and building-integrated photovoltaic systems.
All solar energy systems shall be designed and installed in conformance with the current International Building Code requirements and the manufacturer's recommendations. In case of conflict between these sources, the International Building Code shall apply.
Roof-mounted solar energy systems.
Roof-mounted solar energy systems that use the electricity on site are permitted as an accessory use in all zoning districts when attached to any lawfully permitted building or structure.
Height. Solar energy systems shall not exceed the maximum height restrictions of the zoning district within which they are located and are provided the same height exemptions granted to building-mounted mechanical devices or equipment.
Aesthetics. Roof-mounted solar energy system installations shall incorporate the following design requirements:
Height and setback. Roof-mounted solar energy systems shall adhere to the height and setback requirements of the underlying zoning district.
Panels installed on a sloping roof 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 the highest edge of the system.
Panels installed on a flat or near-flat roof shall be screened by a parapet wall or other approved screening materials at an equal height as the top of the panels.
All flat and near-flat roof installations shall provide a perimeter area around the edges of the roof for emergency access and maintenance work. Larger buildings may be required to provide internal walkways to equipment, access hatches, stairways, ladders, and other roof penetrations or equipment.
Ground-mounted solar energy systems installations shall incorporate the following design requirements:
Ground-mounted solar energy systems that use the electricity primarily on site are permitted as accessory structures in all zoning districts.
Height and setback. Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall adhere to the height and setback requirements of the underlying zoning district.
Lot coverage. Ground-mounted systems are limited to a maximum of 20% of lot coverage. The surface area covered by ground-mounted solar panels shall be included in the total lot coverage, including any primary or secondary structures. Area shall be based upon square feet of solar panel surfaces.
All ground-mounted systems in residential districts shall be installed in the side or rear yards with a minimum setback of 25 feet to any adjoining property lines.
All ground-mounted systems shall be located in a manner to reasonably minimize view blockage for surrounding properties and shading of adjoining properties, while still providing adequate solar access for collectors.
Rules applicable to all solar energy systems.
All solar energy systems shall not be located within any buffer, easement, or environmental protection overlay district (wetland, steep slope, or coastal erosion area).
Small solar panels of less than one square yard for charging of batteries and powering small equipment or devices shall not require a permit.
All solar energy systems shall obtain site plan approval from the Webster Planning Board under the local Zoning Code or other land use regulations.
For any installation within an existing agricultural district or conservation easement, the applicant shall submit all required documentation in conformance with local, state, and federal laws.
Large-scale solar energy systems are permitted through the issuance of a special use permit within all residential districts, subject to the requirements set forth in this section, including site plan approval. Applications for the installation of a large-scale solar energy system shall be reviewed by the Commissioner of Public Works and referred, with comments, to the Town Board for its review and action, which can include approval, approval with conditions, or denial. The Town Board shall refer site plan approval to the Planning Board prior to granting any special use permit.
Large-scale solar energy systems are permitted in commercial districts under the site plan review process of the Planning Board. Front setbacks shall comply with the underlying zoning district.
For a special use permit application, the Town Board shall determine if the special use permit application is supplemented by the following provisions:
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.
Blueprints showing the layout of the solar energy system shall be signed by a professional engineer registered in New York State, including verification that the existing structure is structurally capable report of supporting all additional load impacts.
The equipment specification sheets shall be documented and submitted for all photovoltaic panels, significant components, mounting systems, and inverters that are to be installed.
Property operation and maintenance plan. The applicant shall submit a maintenance agreement plan that describes continuing photovoltaic maintenance and property upkeep, such as mowing and trimming.
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 is to be abandoned or is no longer to be used, it shall be removed by the current owner. The plan shall demonstrate how the removal of all infrastructure and the restoration of soil and vegetation shall be conducted to return the parcel to its original state prior to construction. The plan shall also include a 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 estimations 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 decommissioned after being considered abandoned, the municipality may remove the system, restore the property, and impose a lien on the property to cover the cost recovery to the municipality.
Height and setback. Large-scale solar energy systems shall adhere to the height and setback requirements of the underlying zoning district.
Lot size. Large-scale solar energy systems shall be located on lots with a minimum lot size of five acres.
Lot coverage. A large-scale solar energy system that is ground-mounted shall not exceed 20% of the lot on which it is installed. The surface area covered by solar panels shall be included in total lot coverage. This lot coverage shall include all structures located on the parcel. A large-scale solar energy system is permitted as a primary structure in any commercially zoned property. The Town Board shall consider issuance of a special use permit in any residential district.
All large-scale solar energy systems shall be enclosed by fencing to prevent unauthorized access. Fencing shall be in compliance with the current Town requirements. Warning signs with the owner's contact information shall be placed on the entrance and perimeter of the fencing, with at least one sign facing each adjoining property. The type of fencing shall be as determined by the Town of Webster in conformance with § 225-77. The fencing and the system may be further screened by landscaping as needed to avoid adverse aesthetic impacts.
Any application under this section shall meet any substantive provisions contained in local site plan requirements (Chapter 228) in the Zoning Code that, in the judgment of the Commissioner of Public Works, are applicable to the system being proposed.
The Town Board may impose conditions on its approval of any special use permit under this section in order to enforce the standards referred to in this section or in order to discharge its obligations under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
Solar energy systems are considered abandoned when the Code Enforcement Officer determines the site and system have not been maintained, are a safety risk, or after one year without electrical energy generation and must be removed from the property. Applications for extensions shall be reviewed by the Town Board for a period of one year.
All appeals of any decision by the Town of Webster shall be directed to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
If the invalidity or unenforceability of any section, subsection, paragraph, sentence, clause, provision or phrase of the aforementioned sections is declared by the valid judgment of any court of competent jurisdiction to be unconstitutional, it shall not affect the validity or enforceability of any other section, subsection, paragraph, sentence, clause, provision or phrase, which shall remain in full force and effect.