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Sep 16, 2009 3:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village is working on green energy regulations

Sep 16, 2009 3:14 PM

In anticipation of an uptick in applications, Westhampton Beach Village is moving forward with formulating formal guidelines that will cover the installation of energy-efficient power systems for residential and commercial properties.

Earlier this month, the Village Board unanimously agreed to allow KPC Planning to prepare regulations that the village can follow when residents and business owners apply to install solar panels and wind turbines on their homes and properties. The village, in turn, will pay the Westhampton Beach company $3,500.

The study will take about three months to complete, said Paul Houlihan, the village’s building and zoning administrator.

Village planner Kyle Collins, who is employed at KPC Planning, said he is going to research the guidelines that are already in place in other municipalities across the country. He also intends to contact companies that install solar and wind energy systems to see what common issues they typically encounter.

The issue was bought up at the Village Board’s August 26 work session, when members discussed a need for such guidelines. There is nothing currently in the village code that dictates rules on installing solar panels or wind turbines.

“We don’t have anything on the books,” said Village Board member Toni-Jo Birk during last month’s work session. “You hear more and more every day about renewable energy.”

The owners of commercial properties in the village now looking to install solar panels have to secure approval from both the Westhampton Beach Architectural Review Board and Planning Board. Homeowners, in comparison, only have to secure a permit from the building department to install solar panels on their homes.

The Westhampton Beach Village Board will have to hold public hearings on the matter before approving any new law. Mr. Collins said he expects to make a presentation to the board regarding the new regulations in about six to eight weeks.

Officials discussed the high expense of installing such energy-efficient systems during a recent meeting, even though the federal government offers tax rebates and tax write-offs for those who install them. Board members said they expect to see an increase in applications when the economy eventually recovers.

There are no current applications for such devices pending before the village, officials said.

Village officials said they want homeowners to have energy-efficient homes, but they also want to make sure that the solar panels and wind turbines are not unsightly, Mr. Houlihan said.

“We want to protect the community and make sure things are not out of place,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have something that isn’t ugly, frankly, and that fits in with the village.”

Mr. Collins agreed and said the new guidelines will balance energy efficiency with preserving the quaintness of Westhampton Beach.

“The community character is the biggest asset in the village,” he said.

There have only been three applications for solar panels in the village over the past few years. One resident successfully secured approval to install solar panels on his Main Street property. The Westhampton Free Library’s application for solar panels on its new Library Avenue building was approved on September 1 by the Westhampton Beach Architectural Review Board.

The owners of the Le Club Tennis on Depot Road made a presentation before the Westhampton Beach Planning Board last year in which they had inquired about the possibility of installing dozens of 10-foot-tall solar panels in the parking lot of the business, according to Mr. Houlihan. He said a formal application was never filed by the business.

Ms. Birk said that no single application prompted her to encourage board members to establish guidelines for solar panels and wind turbines.

“It’s more of where we are moving as a population,” she said, referencing the “green” movement.

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Stop with the mandates! Offer incentives. For some reason our local governments continue to take money and decisions away from the population. When the Village Board members put Geothermal and Solar in their homes, then they may have a leg to stand on.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Sep 15, 09 7:20 AM
i dont understand why people think solar is energy efficient. Under current technology, solar costs more, requires more servicing, and produces less power. How is this efficient?

This is just PR, so politicians can pretend to be "green"
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Sep 24, 09 5:53 PM