Energy

Warwick Freezes Ground-Mounted Solar Development

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The moratorium is the second time this year city officials have drafted legislation concerning solar development. (Rob Smith/ecoRI News)

WARWICK, R.I. — The city has declared a six-month freeze on all new ground-mounted solar installations. The moratorium is slated to go into effect after the city fulfills its public notice requirements for the new ordinance. Local officials said they would use the time to overhaul building codes and draft new ordinances regulating solar development.

Originally introduced by request of Mayor Frank Picozzi, the final passage of the moratorium passed Nov. 1 with a unanimous vote by the City Council.

The moratorium is the second time this year city officials have drafted legislation concerning solar development. Legislation introduced at the beginning of the year governed solar by use of an overlay district that applied citywide. It was pulled at the behest of then-incoming Mayor Picozzi, who has spearheaded a community outreach effort to field public opinion on solar development.

Picozzi in a statement provided to ecoRI News said he was “very pleased” with the moratorium’s passage. He described his ideal solar regulations as “confined to industrial and commercial areas.” Neither the mayor nor planning director Tom Kravitz have drafted any legislation to present to the City Council for a vote.

“This is a good compromise,” City Council President Stephen McAllister said. “This keeps the discussion going, keeps everybody involved.”

Ward 5 council member Edgar Ladouceur said the proposed moratorium “is a perfect example of listening to the people and hearing what they have to say.”

Four possible sites of solar installations stirred controversy with some residents. Neighbors and abutters to the Valley Country Club on New London Avenue and Scott Elementary School on Centerville Road expressed concern about the proposed projects’ impact on property values and quality of life.

Residents present at the recent City Council meeting expressed broad support for the moratorium.

“The more time we have to think about this, the better off we’ll be in the long run,” Doug McCusker said. “It’s a generational thing we’re asking the City Council to take up.”

While some residents preferred the council prohibit ground-mounted solar development entirely, members stuck with the six-month freeze. The ordinance was written specifically to give city officials enough time to redraft and overhaul the city’s regulations and nothing more, as a longer blanket moratorium would likely be overturned by the courts.

City officials said six months would be enough time to update zoning ordinances and amend the city’s comprehensive plan to provide a vision for responsible solar development. At the end of the six-month period, the council could extend the freeze if needed.

The city of Cranston similarly froze all ground-mounted solar construction for nine months in 2019, while officials worked out new solar development regulations.

Warwick city officials are planning additional public comment meetings to solicit input on what the final solar ordinance should look like. At its Nov. 10 meeting, the Planning Board plans to discuss solar siting. Kravitz is expected to be on hand to answer questions and hear public comment.

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