Village of Gurnee
Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes
December 15, 2010
The meeting was called to order at 7:50 P.M.
Plan Commission Members Present: Chairman James Sula, Stephen Park, David Nordentoft, Richard McFarlane, Sharon Salmons, Gwen Broughton, Patrick Drennan
Plan Commission Members Absent: None
Zoning Board of Appeals Members Present: Chairman Tom Hood, Edwin Paff, Don Wilson, Jerry Kolar, Robert Monahan, Richard Twitchell
Zoning Board of Appeals Members Absent: John Spadaro
Other Officials Present: Bryan Winter, Village Attorney; Dave Ziegler, Community Development Director; Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager; Molly Booth, Associate Planner; Ryan Mentkowski, Associate Planner
Chairman Sula asked for a motion for a pro-tem Chairman for the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. Paff made a motion, seconded by Mr. Monahan, to appoint Mr. Wilson as Pro-tem Chairman for the Zoning Board of Appeals.
1. a. Approval of Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for October 6, 2010.
Mr. Monahan made a motion, seconded by Mr. Twitchell, to approve the Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for October 6, 2010.
Ayes: Paff, Wilson, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell
Motion Carried: 5-0-0
1. b. Approval of Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for October 6, 2010.
Mr. Monahan made a motion, seconded by Mr. Paff, to approve the Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for October 6, 2010. (ZBA Only)
Ayes: Paff, Wilson, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell
Motion Carried: 5-0-0
2. Public Hearing: Sign Ordinance Modification (Text Amendment)
Chairman Sula stated this is a Public Hearing and asked for anyone from the petitioner or members of the general public who intend to either give testimony or ask questions to stand and be sworn in by the Village Attorney.
Ms. Velkover stated text amendments to the Gurnee Zoning Ordinance regarding regulations for political signs on residential properties were discussed in October 2010 and is now in the Public Hearing stage. She said that a new law will go into effect on January 1, 2011 that restricts the Village’s ability to regulate political signs on residential properties. House Bill 3785 states “except that, other than reasonable restrictions as to size, no home rule or non-home rule municipality may prohibit the display of outdoor political campaign signs on residential property during any period of time, the regulation of these signs being a power and function of the State and, therefore, this item is a denial and limitation of concurrent home rule powers and functions under subsection (1) of Section 6 of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution”.
She stated the current sign code establishes the following for political signs:
“Temporary campaign (candidate or ballot issue) signs are allowed, without a permit, for a period of not more than 60 days before an election, referendum, or similar voting event. Temporary campaign signs must be set back at least 12 feet from all public rights-of-way and must be removed no later than 5 days after the voting event.” She stated there is no restriction on the size. Instead, the restriction is the duration of the signs.
Ms. Velkover summarized that the new law that goes into effect on January 1, 2011 restricts the Village’s ability to regulate the timeframe that political signs can be on residential properties. The Village can only put a reasonable size limitation on the signs. Staff is proposing to remove these signs from the Temporary Sign section of the Sign Ordinance and insert them into the Other Sign section. She noted that both of these are under the umbrella of Signs not Requiring a Permit. The language for political signs on office, commercial, institutional, public and industrial properties would remain the same. She reiterated that political signs on these types of properties can be installed for a period not more than 60 days before the election and must be down within 5 days after the voting event is completed. For residential properties staff is proposing to restrict political/campaign signs to a maximum size of 9 sq. ft. and a maximum height of 4 feet. She stated Staff believes they have the power to regulate the height as part of the size and they are proposing the 9 square feet because this is the same size that is allowed for residential “for sale/for lease” signs. She stated the idea is to be somewhat more restrictive because these signs now have the potential to be up year round.
Ms. Velkover stated in the previous workshop meeting there were comments from some of the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals members about linking the size of the sign to the size of the parcel. She stated the Plan Commission has often asked that staff keep regulations simple and for that reason, linking sign size to property size was not proposed. She also stated that the 9 sq. ft. size provides consistency for political signs and for sale/for lease signs.
Chairman Sula announced that Chairman Hood arrived at 7:40 p.m. (Chairman Hood was not present when approving the meeting minutes from October 6, 2010.)
Chairman Hood asked for questions from the Plan Commission.
Mr. Park stated that a 4-foot high sign may not be visible during the winter months. He asked if this would be an enforcement worry with no clearance if there is snow or should a taller sign be allowed for the clearance.
Ms. Velkover responded the height was included because of a concern that someone might try to install a tall sign in a residential area that could be up year-round. Staff is not opposed to a change in height if the Commission feels a different height is more appropriate.
Mr. Park noted that information from Grayslake and Libertyville essentially provides for 4x4 signs which is a standard dimension versus 3x3 signs which may be a custom size. He asked what was the determination of the 3x3 signs other than this is what is allowed for the “for sale” signs.
Ms. Velkover responded Staff felt 9 sq. ft. signs are more appropriate for single-family properties than 16 sq. ft. She also noted that at the last workshop meeting the Boards directed Staff to draft a restrictive ordinance, with the intent that discussion such as this would take place that would mold the final ordinance language.
Mr. Winter stated because this is a brand new statue effective January 1, 2011, Staff really doesn’t have much in terms of guidance as to what courts might view as a reasonable restriction. He stated the point that Mr. Park has brought up is that there is quite a few signs that are 4x4 in size. He stated this might be a consideration for allowing this as a reasonable restriction. He stated as far as the height of 4x4 signs they would be touching the ground and up 4 feet and a person would still be able to understand the candidate’s name as the name is usually not on the bottom foot or so of the sign. He commented just because there are 4x4 yard signs there may be an issue of just limiting signs to 9 feet and suggested that perhaps some consideration should be given to the 16 square foot size. He stated this is a very common size and noted that an argument might be made that this is a traditional size of political sign so why would the Village restrict this further. He stated, as seen in the packets provided to the Commission, there are 2 municipalities that have restricted the aggregate size and this would be an option.
Chairman Sula stated that a 4X4 sign is big for a residential area. Signs of this size could create line of sight issues as people are backing cars out of their driveways, perhaps not being able to see pedestrians and children on sidewalks. He stated the basic premise going forward is to start out as tight as possible with the ability to ease up at a later time as it would be very difficult to go the other way. He stated he would propose to stay with what Staff has suggested.
Mr. McFarlane agrees with what Chairman Sula stated. If he understands this correctly, there is no limit on the number of signs allowed. He asked if this was correct.
Ms. Velkover responded yes.
Mr. McFarlane asked if it could be made similar to Buffalo Grove’s, where they have a maximum aggregate amount of political signs allowed. Mr. McFarlane stated he agrees with Chairman Sula in that if a person had signs that were 3 feet high and there were 6 individual signs it would be a mess.
Mr. Paff asked if these regulations that limit the aggregate amount of signage have been tested.
Mr. Velkover responded not to her knowledge.
Mr. McFarlane stated he agrees with Chairman Sula to make the ordinance tight.
Chairman Hood asked for questions or comments from the members of the Zoning Board.
Mr. Twitchell asked Staff if they know the original basis of new law, why the State Legislature undertook this issue, and why communities must now address this.
Mr. Ziegler stated he read an article from the Illinois Municipal League on this issue and stated it was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that has filtered down to the States over the past couple of years becoming part of the State Legislature. He stated they have implemented this based on a U.S. Supreme Court Freedom of Speech case that recently passed.
Mr. Wilson stated he likes Buffalo Grove’s idea of limiting the total aggregate amount of sign area to 6 square feet and noted the tighter it is the better considering this may be something that will be allowed all year.
Mr. Paff stated he understands about making this issue tight but predicts that if the Village makes it too tight it will be fought. He stated he is not sure that he would restrict this to 6 feet and would probably be okay with 9 square feet. He stated the problem is the 4x4 is that this is one-half of a 4x8 sheet and it would cost more money to make 3x3 signs than 4x4 signs.
Mr. Wilson stated he would like to see someone come in with a variance with the neighbors voicing their opinions.
Mr. Kolar asked if there currently is any power to remove signs that have been up in the northeast residential section of Gurnee.
Ms. Velkover stated yes, but that starting January 1st that will no longer be possible as long as the signs meet the size established in the ordinance.
Mr. Wilson stated it would be best to limit the size for the neighborhoods.
Chairman Sula asked the Commission for any other discussion.
Mr. Nordentoft questioned if the Boards wanted to establish a maximum amount of signage for a property in addition to a maximum size of an individual sign. He noted that if a 4x4 (16 sq. ft.) size limit was established without a total amount of signage then a corner lot could place a substantial number of these signs which could create line-of-sight issues.
Ms. Velkover responded she didn’t’ know if establishing a maximum aggregate amount of signage would be viewed as legal; she stated that as far as she knows this has not been court tested. She stated it seems to still be a size regulation, but again noted that because the law is new there are no court cases to provide direction on what can and can’t be done.
Chairman Sula stated maybe there is another approach to address the safety issue. He suggested establishing a maximum number of signs per linear feet of property frontage, such as no more than 1 sign for every 7 feet of frontage.
Mr. Ziegler responded that this type of regulation would be a limit on the number, rather than size, which would not be allowed. The State statue is very clear and says that municipalities are only able to restrict the size of political signs on residential properties. He stated regulations that tie the number of signs allowed to the amount of property frontage would be outside the parameters of the new State law.
Chairman Sula stated then Buffalo Grove is being creative by creating an aggregate square footage.
Mr. Ziegler responded that is a size standard.
Chairman Sula responded he likes it.
Mr. Twitchell responded that typical political signs on residential properties 18” X 24” or 3 sq. ft. If 6 sq. ft. of aggregate signage is allowed, then a homeowner could place 2 of these standard sized signs on their property.
Mr. Ziegler responded that is correct.
Mr. Twitchell stated this is the direction that he would support.
Chairman Sula asked for a motion from the Plan Commission.
Mr. McFarlane made a motion, seconded by Ms. Salmons, to limit political signs on residential properties to a total of 9 square feet.
Chairman Sula asked for any other discussion on the motion.
Mr. Park stated that this regulation would essentially preclude a corner lot from having a sign on each street frontage; based on what Mr. Winter stated regarding what would be reasonable (i.e., 16 sq. ft.). He stated many times the reaction is about what the maximum could be, but that there is a practical situation that the Village must deal with. To limit a residential lot to just 2 or 3 of the smaller signs does not seem to be practical. He also stated that this is a First Amendment issue which could cause legal issues for the Village.
Chairman Sula responded that if someone wanted to contest this regulation then they could. The Board would have the ability to hold a public hearing to modify this regulation if they thought it was necessary. He thought it was better to start off with a more restrictive regulation and then relax it if necessary instead of adopting a regulation that was very permissive and then trying to further restrict it in the future.
Mr. Twitchell stated 9 square feet would allow someone with a corner lot to have three of the standard 18” x 24” inch signs.
Mr. McFarlane stated that this type of a regulation would be a lot more tolerable to neighbors.
Chairman Sula said that most advertising is supposed to be current. He stated that to have these signs up year round is the most disruptive thing that the legislative branch has done in a long time. He stated this can always be loosened up but could never be tightened down.
Chairman Sula asked for the Plan Commission Roll Call.
Ayes: Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons, Drennan
Motion Carried: 6-1-0
Chairman Hood asked for a motion from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. Wilson made a motion, seconded by Mr. Twitchell, to limit political signs on residential properties to a total of 6 square feet.
Chairman Hood asked for any discussion from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. Wilson stated this should be kept as tight as possible.
Mr. Paff stated he doesn’t’ believe this should be put in for year round signs, even though it was.
Mr. Wilson stated in reading it, it is not just about candidate signs and that it could be any signage and that being three of any sort of sign.
Chairman Hood stated there is a motion with a second and asked if there was any discussion.
Mr. Monahan asked if it was possible to relax these regulations (i.e., allow for more and larger signs on residential properties) for a 60 day period before an election.
The consensus was that such a regulation would not conform to the new State law, since it would contain a time frame component to it.
Ayes: Hood, Wilson, Kolar, Twitchell
Nays: Monahan, Paff
Motion Carried: 4-2-0
3. Public Hearing: Solar Energy Systems (Text Amendment)
Chairman Sula stated this is a Public Hearing, and asked for any members of the general public who intend to either give testimony or ask questions to stand and be sworn in by the Village Attorney.
Mr. Mentkowski stated Solar Energy Systems were briefly introduced to both Commissions on October 6, 2010 at a Joint Workshop Meeting. He stated currently there are no zoning restrictions for residentially or non-residentially used property or buildings. He stated currently there is a moratorium in place that allows staff time to create regulations within the Village of Gurnee. He stated a couple of factors contributing to the development of solar energy systems are the Village of Gurnee’s Strategic Plan that has been adopted by the Village Board in September of 2009 which supports Green Technologies in all zoning districts and is part of a Village wide strategic goal that we become more environmentally conscious and implement green initiatives for Village services. He also stated that as part of the alternative task force of Lake County communities, a model ordinance was created with a variety of other communities. He also stated the State of Illinois created legislation that contributes to part of this development of solar energy and that they have recently adopted the Solar Ramp-up Bill which doesn’t relate for residential but does create a guideline for the amount of solar energy to be produced by the year 2015. He noted the State has also passed the Homeowners Solar Right Act which essentially removes barriers for homeowners living in Homeowners Association / Condominium Associations who want to put up solar energy systems on roofs and requires them to create an energy policy / energy plan with restrictions that allow solar energy. He stated the last workshop meeting provided staff with direction, including direction to have discussions with the Fire Chief and Fire Marshall regarding the development of this Ordinance, as well as the concerns they may have as to the placement of solar panels. He stated he believes the restrictions currently presented would address any concerns raised by the fire department.
Mr. Mentkowski stated a solar energy system’s primary purpose is to convert solar energy into thermal, mechanical or electrical energy for storage and use. He stated for the purpose of this Ordinance, it consists of Building Mounted Solar Energy Systems & Ground Mounted Solar Energy Systems. He stated at the last meeting it was decided to remove Utility Solar Energy Systems from being permitted anywhere in the Village of Gurnee.
Mr. Mentkowski stated there are three types of Building Mounted Solar Energy Systems for residential. He stated the first are those that are raised up off a roof to obtain the optimal sun angle which for Lake County is approximately 42 degrees and determined by latitude and are generally called building mounted. He stated the next type is defined as Building Integrated which is solar shingles or solar slates essentially built right into and used as roofing materials. He stated the third type is Flush Mounted which is a different variety of solar panels being a maximum of 6 inches in height from the roof.
Mr. Mentkowski stated additional restrictions for Building Mounted Solar Energy Systems for Residential use are as follows:
· If a building mounted system is facing a front or corner side yard only a Building Integrated or Flush Mounted system can be utilized.
· Limiting the total roof area allowed to be covered by solar roof collectors to a maximum of 80% of the total roof area.
· Maximum height of 5 feet over the average peak of the existing residential house.
· Allow a 4 foot maximum projection beyond the building façade which is projecting beyond the side of the house or roof as long as it is not adjacent to a front yard or corner side yard. Projections are prohibited on accessory structures.
Mr. Mentkowski stated additional restrictions for Building Mounted Solar Energy Systems for Non-Residential use are as follows:
· Limiting the total roof area allowed to be covered by solar roof collectors to a maximum of 50% of the total roof area.
· Projection is not different than residential and allows a maximum of 4 feet beyond the building façade.
Mr. Mentkowski stated restrictions for Ground Mounted Solar Energy Systems for Residential use are as follows:
· No Ground Mounted Solar Energy Systems are permitted within the corner side yard area or the front yard area of a house.
· Ground Mounted Solar Energy Systems are permitted as long as they are set-back 100% the system height from the property line, but no less than 5 feet from the property line.
· Solar Collector Panel areas are limited to a maximum of 50% of the building footprint square footage for panel surface area in the yard providing setbacks and height restrictions are met.
· Maximum height is 15 feet as discussed at the last workshop meeting.
· Ground Mounted Systems are not permitted in a dedicated easement.
Mr. Mentkowski stated restrictions for Ground Mounted Solar Energy Systems for Non- Residential use are as follows:
· Setbacks are the same as for residential, 100% of the system height and not less than 5 feet.
· Maximum Solar Collector Panel area coverage is a maximum of 50% of the building footprint square footage.
· Maximum height is 15 feet as discussed at the last meeting. If there was a desire to attach to light pole in a parking lot for example, the maximum allowed above the parking lot light would be 5 feet, which would be a smaller solar panel utilized to power the light pole.
· Ground Mounted Systems are not permitted in a dedicated easement.
· Solar panels are not permitted in parking lots when interfering with the required parking spaces.
· Solar panels are not permitted in areas dedicated as open space or if they reduce the required amount of open space.
Chairman Sula asked if Solar Energy Systems work best with a southerly exposure.
Mr. Mentkowski replied that is correct.
Chairman Sula stated everyone cannot have southerly exposure and asked if there is anything that is being proposed that will cause problems.
Mr. Mentkowski responded if property is facing the street with a south exposure a Building Integrated or Flush Mounted System that blends into the architecture would need to be utilized.
Chairman Sula opened the floor to the Public for questions and comments.
Mr. Ed Furman a resident of Round Lake Beach stated he is a member of Midwest Renewable Energy Association in Custer, Wisconsin. He asked if this association was consulted for any of the solar energy research as they are an advocacy and advisory group for the topic that is being discussed at this meeting. He stated he would provide the contact information for this organization.
Mr. Mentkowski responded he didn’t know off hand if this association had been contacted.
Mr. Furman suggested in relation to ground mounted solar energy system and the height restriction that the pole that is used for ground mounted systems might need to be allowable for a two-story height to get past aluminum siding and metal gutters. He also stated if counting the pole as part of the ground mounted systems, the height is very restrictive and the height may need to be re-considered for someone who does not have a southern exposure.
Mr. Furman asked why no accessory structures are allowed to have solar systems. He stated if someone doesn’t have good southern exposure on their home an accessory structure may make a perfect power building using that roof with good solar exposure as the collector. He stated an accessory structure roof with a solar energy system may be safer, easier to clean, easier to modify and easier to inspect.
Mr. Furmann stated that corner lots with a front yard that has solar energy systems must be flush mounted or building integrated and noted with a corner lot there are 2 roof views for most houses. He asked for consideration for this type of lot / house. He stated the only way to obtain a good southern exposure might be an off-set or supported system that is not flush with the roof.
Ms. Cynthia Marienthal of 5609 Barnwood Drive, Gurnee asked if the Village was looking to include smaller devices that are unobtrusive such as a solar powered attic fan into this Ordinance.
Mr. Gustavo Borelli of 923 Cheswick Drive, Gurnee asked how this will affect persons who have existing solar panels on their homes.
Chairman Sula closed the floor to the Public and asked Mr. Mentkowski to address the comments or questions made.
Mr. Mentkowski referenced Mr. Furman’s question about the height of the pole when ground mounted. He stated what Mr. Furman was referencing would be a Ground Mounted Solar Energy System. He stated if it is attached to the pole and not to the house it is ground mounted. He stated it currently is limited to 15 feet and Mr. Furman suggested the Commission consider an increased height.
Mr. Mentkowski stated he might have confused the issue of allowing a Solar Energy System onto accessory structures. He stated Solar Energy Systems are allowed on accessory structures. He stated the restriction that Staff created states it cannot project beyond the building façade of accessory structures.
Mr. Mentkowski stated the restrictions for the corner lots are actually the same as what the front yard would be. He stated it would be allowed to utilize a Building Integrated or Flush Mounted Solar Energy System on a corner lot because it would be adjacent to the corner side yard.
Chairman Sula stated this Ordinance would probably not include a self-contained device such as an attic fan that contained a solar cell.
Mr. Ziegler stated the key is if the device is connected into the home’s electrical system such as a hot water heating system and definitely not the small self-contained devices.
Mr. Mentkowski stated it was not the intent of this Ordinance to regulate these smaller units.
Chairman Sula stated that is what he wanted to clarify.
Mr. Mentkowski stated solar panels that are currently in place would be “grandfathered-in” as a legal non-conforming use.
Chairman Sula added as long as they were properly permitted when installed.
Mr. Mentkowski replied correct.
Chairman Sula opened the floor to discussion for members the Commissions.
Mr. Park stated the potential projection of 4 feet from the side of the building was discussed and asked what happens if the setback is only 5 feet.
Mr. Mentkowski responded as it is currently written, it could go into the 5 foot setback.
Mr. Park stated the setbacks are not just a safety issue but also the issue of the proper light and air in and around the building as well as between buildings. He stated if the area would be constricted by effectively 80% on one, and asked if it would be working for what the intended use is for.
Chairman Sula stated there are other situations where a projection doesn’t count against the setback such as a fireplace projecting out. He asked if there are restrictions on how big this can be.
Mr. Mentkowski responded that he knows there is a restriction as far as allowing certain architectural features such as a chimney which would be 3 feet.
Chairman Sula asked why this would be bigger than other things in the Ordinance. He asked why this would be for 4 feet when other things are 3 feet.
Mr. Park stated 80% residential coverage was provided and 50% non-residential coverage was provided for the Roof Mounted Solar Energy Systems. He asked why these two numbers are significant.
Mr. Mentkowski responded the 80% for residential is the only number he could find in an Ordinance. He stated in looking to limit the number of solar connectors on a house he wanted to provide a number that was based on some sort of research. He stated the Model Ordinance was developed and based off the research. He noted these numbers are up for discussion with the Commissions.
Mr. Park asked Mr. Mentkowski if he knows the reason for this.
Mr. Mentkowski responded that in speaking with the fire department he believes the reasoning is because there is some access needed to get onto the roof in case of an emergency.
Chairman Sula stated he believes Mr. Park is trying to understand if it is a technical issue or aesthetic issue or perhaps a safety issue.
Mr. Mentkowski responded a combination of each.
Mr. Park stated if there is a Ground Mounted Solar Energy System it can be 50% of the footprint of the primary building. He stated if he had a 10,000 square foot lot with a 3,000 square foot ranch he could then have a 1,500 square foot Solar Energy System and therefore covering 4,500 square feet with almost 50% of the property being covered by an impervious surface. He asked if this impervious surface is counted toward storm water issues as this creates more flood potential.
Mr. Ziegler responded he probably would not count a solar array that is mounted above ground. He stated typically the grassy area underneath it would absorb the water that hits the ground before it runs off. He stated the SMC Storm Water Management Commission has not addressed this issue but he would guess that it would not be counted as an impervious surface such as a paved parking lot.
Mr. Park asked if it was Mr. Ziegler’s suggestion that grass would grow underneath a panel even though the panel would be intervening in any sunlight.
Mr. Zielger responded unless the property owner chose to pave the area that grass would grow and water would still infiltrate into the ground. He stated even with dirt or something with a gravel base would still allow the penetration of water into the ground.
Chairman Hood asked for comments or questions from the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. Twitchell stated he has seen some solar systems that were built into a frame only 3-4 feet above the ground and would be considered impervious surface because they were solid 10 x 50 feet or 20 x 50 feet systems. He stated he believes that the design of the system should be considered to address this issue. He stated he agrees it is not an impervious issue if they are above the ground high enough for water and sunlight to get in and around but noted there are ground mounted systems that would not allow this to happen. He stated he understands the 50% coverage for some non-residential buildings may be appropriate but asked why the 80% coverage of that roof wouldn’t be allowed for big-box retail with or without a parapet wall.
Mr. Mentkowski responded he didn’t have an answer and stated if the Commission wishes this can be changed to 80%.
Chairman Sula stated if there is a parapet wall that cannot be seen from the ground and Public Works/Safety personnel do not have an issue with it, he didn’t see why it would not be put as high as possible.
Mr. Twitchell stated even without a parapet wall being at 80% the setback from the edges might be enough that it might not be seen.
Chairman Sula stated he agrees and that it is a visual issue.
Mr. Wilson stated he agrees with it being 80% because the businesses in those buildings would be utilizing more energy which is the same reason the wind system was allowed at Chipolte. He stated he feels it should be more restricted with ground mounted residential in terms of it being close to the home otherwise it would look out of place in the neighborhoods. He stated if a ground mounted system was in the middle of someone’s yard it would not be appropriate for a neighbor to have to look out at the system every day. He stated ground mounted in residential should be close to a house as well as being restricted.
Mr. Mentkowski asked Mr. Wilson if he meant as close to the house as possible.
Mr. Wilson replied yes, as close to the house as possible or do not to allow any Ground Mounted Solar Systems.
Mr. Mentkowski responded the Fire Department would have concerns with that as they must be assured of access especially in the case of a 2-story home. He stated they want to ensure it would not be in a location with an access point to the 2nd floor.
Mr. Park asked if there is a minimum setback from the house for a Ground Mounted Solar System.
Mr. Mentkowski replied no.
Mr. Twitchell stated a Ground Mounted Solar System could be done almost completely surrounding a house, almost touching the house looking like vines and asked how that would be in the way.
Mr. Mentkowski stated the Fire Department would review these as they would go to the building permit process.
Chairman Sula asked if it is economically practical for someone to install a solar collection device on their home. He asked what the payback period would be on the most cost effective model.
Mr. Mentkowski responded it depends on the sun, the angle, the efficiency, and what the energy is being utilized for.
Chairman Sula stated his sense is that this is a technology that will be evolving to greater efficiencies over the course of time and suggested to perhaps continue the moratorium for a while because right now they are ugly. He asked if there is an urgency to actually do something now and asked if the moratorium could be extended for a while.
Ms. Velkover responded moratoriums cannot be used to prohibit structures. She stated they can be used as a temporary means for Villages to study issues to put regulations into place.
Mr. Winter stated that Ms. Velkover’s statement is correct.
Mr. Park stated these were some of these same questions with the Wind Energy Systems which have 15+ years payback on systems and sometimes the only real demand is the Federal or State Tax Credits that make them more palatable. He stated there are those who are “techies” and want to be on the leading edge and asked if the Commission wants to provide for that, as that is the question before them this evening. He stated to him, the Ground Mounted Systems in residential are most problematic. He agreed with Chairman Sula in that the technology will be very different in 10 years. He stated if Gurnee wants to be “leading edge” as proposed and asked if so, how far out it should go. He reaffirmed that Mr. McFarlane stated he doesn’t believe that the Ground Mounted System would provide much benefit compared to the potential aggravation and the problems of property values and neighborhood issues.
Mr. Wilson stated in terms of property values if someone were to sell a house with a solar system that was aesthetically nice and built into the roof it might raise the property value. He stated a bad ground system in the middle of someone’s yard would not be a great property value for the surrounding homes. He stated moving forward not allowing the Ground Mounted System and to allow for the Flush Mounted Systems and sorry to the residents that didn’t have a southern exposure.
Mr. Twitchell stated he lives in a neighborhood where conveyance is required for things over and above what the municipal Ordinance entails. He stated in his neighborhood cedar shingle roofs are required for any structure having a roof. He stated he is a huge proponent of alternative energies but noted by allowing these systems he believes it may open up the Homeowners Associations to liability issues and lawsuits as well.
Chairman Sula asked what takes precedence, the Association or the Village Ordinance.
Mr. Winter stated this is something that the Village would not get involved in as far as enforcing those conveyances. He stated that is something each Association would have to make their determination on.
Mr. Mentkowski stated he mentioned the Homeowner Solar Light Act which is a new State Law, Act HB5429 which provides that each Homeowner Association / Condominium Units Homeowner Association shall adopt an Energy Policy Statement concerning the location, design, and architectural requirements of Solar Energy Systems or other Energy Devices. He stated it provides that any entity that complies with the Act is not liable to any other resident or third party for such compliance. He noted it essentially requires those Associations to create regulations or to create a policy that allows a Solar Energy System. He stated how he understands this Bill is the State is making the Condominium and Homeowners Associations make an Amendment to their covenants.
Mr. Winter stated that those associations would be able to adopt a different policy that the Village of Gurnee.
Chairman Sula asked if the Commission members feel close to making a recommendation.
Mr. McFarlane stated he is okay with what has been presented if the Ground Mounted Systems are removed from being allowed, as well as removing the 4 foot overhang provision.
Chairman Sula stated he believes the overhang should be the same as what we allow for other features in the zoning ordinance.
Chairman Sula asked for a motion from the members of the Plan Commission.
Mr. McFarlane made a motion, seconded by Ms. Broughton, to recommend the adoption of the Ordinance as proposed by staff with the following changes: 1.) prohibiting all Ground Mounted Solar Systems on both residential and commercial properties; 2.) to change the projection restriction from 4 feet to 3 feet to conform to the projection restrictions that are currently used for buildings; and 3.) to increase the commercial limitation for building mounted solar systems to 80% of the roof.
Ayes: Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons, Drennan
Motion Carried: 6-1-0
Chairman Hood asked for a motion from the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. Wilson made a motion, seconded by Mr. Paff, to accept an Ordinance that would mirror what the Plan Commission has passed.
Chairman Hood asked if there was any discussion on the motion.
Mr. Twitchell stated a lot of Park Districts are utilizing Solar Energy for security lighting and various other things where they do have Ground Mounted single small panels to light a sign or provide a security light.
Mr. Wilson stated that has been defined as a device as opposed to something that is tapped into a grid and supplying power to an entire structure.
Mr. Twitchell stated those would be pole mounted and not unlike some of the photos that were provided.
Chairman Sula stated an example would be like those that are on signs that are on the Tollway and asked how that would be covered by this ordinance?
Mr. McFarlane stated that it is a device and not a collector.
Mr. Wilson stated again that this is only powering the one particular item as opposed to something that is supplying power to an entire structure.
Chairman Sula stated that is a good question.
Mr. Ziegler responded the way in which the Ordinance is structured is that solar panels for street lights are considered Ground Mounted Solar Systems. He stated across the board by eliminating Ground Mounted Solar Systems it would thereby eliminate these systems, other than the Park District signs that were previously mentioned and are probably a supplemental energy system but maybe also integrated with the grid electrical system. He stated if the desire is to differentiate something along those lines it would need to be indicated.
Chairman Sula stated if what Mr. Ziegler just described is always in Public right-of-ways?
Mr. Ziegler responded not always as they can be parking lights within the interior field of a parking lot which was set up not to be on the exterior edge of the parking lot as they had to meet the setback requirements interior to the parking lot with the solar arrays on top of the parking lot lights.
Chairman Sula stated because of where this is at it would be best to let the Zoning Board of Appeals finish with their motion and if the Commissions want to revisit this it can be revisited.
Chairman Hood asked if there was any other discussion from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mr. Paff asked if there was a way to just allow the type of pole mounted just discussed or perhaps limit the amount of square footage allowed on the Ground Mounted System. He stated if it was limited enough it probably wouldn’t be used as a power source for a home.
Mr. Wilson asked if the definitions in the packets provided to the Commissions separate the two issues that are being discussed.
Mr. Mentkowski responded he didn’t believe so. He stated it would be more of an interpretation of the differentiation between what a self contained system is and the definition of solar energy systems. He then asked if this is perhaps a question of the definition difference between Ground Mounted and Building Mounted.
Chairman Hood asked if there is something from the Zoning Board of Appeals that they would like amended which would be basically taking the Plan Commission’s motion and adopting it as their own by adding a clarification for residentially mounted.
Mr. Twitchell stated most of the systems he has seen in the Park Districts are not actually hooked into the grid because they are located in remote park locations where running electricity to those locations was determined to be more cost prohibitive than putting up a small solar device. He stated the Zoning Board could potentially tie it into something along these lines.
Chairman Hood stated what he is looking for is something like “accept for a pole mounted device that would not exceed “x” square feet” or ‘a self-contained single device not to exceed a certain square footage”.
Mr. Wilson stated that would be the way to go.
Chairman Hood asked the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals what square footage they would be comfortable with.
Mr. Paff asked what the square footage is for the signs that the Park District is utilizing.
Mr. Twitchell stated one that he has seen is actually monitoring something is in a wetland area with the size being 4 feet x 8 feet. He stated it is off on the edge of the wetland area on the edge of a wooded area outside the Village of Gurnee. He stated they are common in park environments.
Chairman Hood stated the Zoning Board of Appeals is adopting everything as the Plan Commission’s motion except with the addition to allow ground mounted single use devices on non-residential properties.
Ms. Velkover stated Staff can work on the different sizes and work with Mr. Winter to create some language that would provide an exception for those types of devices. She stated if the Commissions would want to see this language they would need to come back to convene and continue with another Public Hearing otherwise Staff could draft the language and forward it on up to the Village Board. She stated Staff would need to look into this further rather than coming up with the proper language at this meeting.
Chairman Hood stated they trust Staff implicitly and he guesses the Commission members would not want to come back on this issue alone.
Ms. Velkover responded the motion would reflect the same as the Plan Commission with Staff looking into an exception for small self-contained single unit devices.
Chairman Hood asked for a revised Motion.
Mr. Wilson made a motion, seconded by Mr. Paff, to accept an Ordinance that would mirror what the Plan Commission has passed with Staff looking into an exception for self-contained single unit devices.
Chairman Hood asked if there was any discussion on the motion.
Ayes: Hood, Paff, Wilson, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell
Motion Carried: 6-0-0
Chairman Sula stated he felt it was safe to say that the Plan Commission was thinking in terms of collection devices connected to a grid but they would be amendable to self-contained devices. He asked if another motion was needed.
Mr. Park stated he wanted clarification as he voted in opposition to the prior motion. He stated his objection was that he believes ground mounted systems should be allowed for in non-residential areas. He stated in many cases particularly with getting into the new LEED program where water systems and thermal systems can have solar. He stated these cannot be put on the roof and must be put onto the ground because of structural weight. He stated the single point devices that were mentioned by the Zoning Board of Appeals, for things like a light does not go far enough.
Chairman Sula stated the Plan Commission motion will be left as is as we are a recommending body.
Chairman Sula asked for motion to adjourn.
Ms. Broughton made a motion to adjourn.
The Meeting was adjourned at 9:10 P.M.
Plan Commission Secretary