Council set to vote on solar ordinance ... again

Posted 3/4/22

Last summer the Council was set to give second passage of a solar ordinance, however, it didn’t get voted on because the title of the ordinance wasn’t worded correctly on the legal …

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Council set to vote on solar ordinance ... again


Last summer the Council was set to give second passage of a solar ordinance, however, it didn’t get voted on because the title of the ordinance wasn’t worded correctly on the legal notice.

That combined with the Council facing concerns over solar developments in residential -zoned areas, prompted Mayor Frank Picozzi to request the council table the ordinance until he could bring on a new Planning Director following the departure of Principal Planner Lucas Murray.

Since new City Planner Tom Kravitz has come on board, a number of workshops have taken place to hear community members’ input on the ordinance.

On Monday the Council will consider a revised solar ordinance.

In January the Planning Board voted to send an advisory opinion to the Council recommending a proposed solar ordinance.

Following that meeting Jane Austin, who has been vocal throughout the process, said she was in favor of the recommendation following the Planning Board meeting.

Some of the items in the ordinance that she pointed as liking include: Takes a balanced, strategic City-wide approach Provides ample opportunity for solar development protects neighborhoods, open space, forested areas, and farmland reflects citizen wishes for community character draws on experiences of other RI communities

Is consistent with Statewide energy goals and siting recommendations ahead of the Council meeting Bob Oberg, a Ward 8 resident who has helped to organize his neighbors since they first heard about the proposed solar development at the Valley Country Club, wrote a letter to the editor in support of the ordinance. “The Warwick City Council’s Public Hearing on Monday, March 7 provides a valuable opportunity for residents to advance what so many of us have been fighting for over the past six months—a smart solar development policy that protects Warwick’s residential areas, forests, farmland, and open space from utility-grade solar,” said Oberg.

With that said not everyone is in favor of the proposed ordinance.


ISM Solar

Greg Lucini, CEO of ISM Solar Development, LLC said when the original proposed solar ordinance was being considered he along with other stakeholders were part of the drafting of it.

Lucini thinks the City got the ordinance right the first time.

“The ordinance allowed for ground-mounted solar in residential areas with certain restrictions, subject to proper review and permitting,” said Lucini in January.

“That ordinance, approved unanimously by the planning board, was the culmination of over two years of work, including stakeholder meetings and informational presentations to the planning board. The ordinance, recommended for passage by the planning department, included significant protections for the land and abutters that went far beyond what would be required for residential development.”

Language was added to the new proposed solar ordinance which bans solar in residential zones.

But as Lucini pointed out while he and others crafted an ordinance originally his company had two solar development projects in the works, one at the Little Rhody Beagle Club on Cowesett Road, and the Kent County YMCA on Centerville Road.

In a statement Mike Raia, a spokesperson for ISM Solar said “For more than two years, Warwick’s leaders - from the Mayor’s office, to the planning board, to the council - had been firmly and unitedly supportive of responsible solar development.”

“Like many, we were caught by surprise when the administration changed its position. We remain hopeful that the Council will take action to preserve the City’s commitment to its renewable and environmental goals,” said Raia.

Raia on Tuesday said that “ISM Solar is committed to being a good neighbor.”

“Our proposed development preserves the footprint of the local neighborhood, guarantees that the YMCA and Beagle Club land will never be developed, protects wildlife, commits to reforestation, provides walking paths for the community, and avoids the kind of heavy blasting other developments would require,” said Raia. “Our project helps make Warwick homeowners less reliant on National Grid and gives City planners a flexible tool for long-term, strategic land use planning.”

“The City Council has an opportunity to ensure that City leaders have flexible, strategic options to preserve land for future generations and make Warwick more energy independent,” Raia went on to state.

“Every project deserves a transparent, fair, and public vetting. We respectfully ask that the Council considerthe long- and-short-term unintended consequences of eliminating solar from the City’s toolbox.”

Raia said that if “this project - which had been previously supported by the Council and administration - is not allowed to move forward, there will be real impacts on the community.”

The impacts that Raia listed include:

  • Neighbors in Cowesett would experience years of heavy construction, decades of sprawl and congestion, and a permanent loss of protected and preserved open space.
  • Businesses looking at where to expand would get a signal that Warwick is an unpredictable place to do business.
  • Warwick homeowners would continue to be overly reliant on National Grid.
  • City residents would face likely tax increases to support additional City services

“We’re the Ocean State, and data shows that our cities and towns are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than most other communities in the U.S. If we are truly committed to being a part of the fight for climate resiliency and energy independence, we need to embrace a diverse portfolio of renewable energy in every part of the state,” said Raia.


The Vote

Council President Steve McAllister last week said he is reviewing the administration’s proposal.

“I have and continue to meet with individuals and groups on both sides of this issue. There will be no ordinance that will satisfy all stakeholders, however the administration and the council have taken the time to allow all voices to be heard,” said McAllister. “This practice will continue at the next council meeting where there will be a public hearing on the proposal.”

The public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. If the Council votes in favor of it a second vote will still be needed in order for it to be enacted.

Oberg said that he hopes that people will attend the meeting.

“I strongly encourage residents to call and email their council person— and to come out in force on March 7 to support the Comprehensive Plan Changes (PCO-2-22) and the New Solar Zoning regulations (PCO-3-22)—and to oppose any amendments that would permit commercial solar in residential areas or weaken the performance standards,” said Oberg.

solar, ordinance


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