Solar ordinance passes… finally

Posted 3/23/22


The audience gave the Warwick City Council a standing ovation Monday after it gave second passage to an ordinance restricting large solar developments in residential areas.

The …

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Solar ordinance passes… finally



The audience gave the Warwick City Council a standing ovation Monday after it gave second passage to an ordinance restricting large solar developments in residential areas.

The Council gave first passage to the ordinance  March 10. Instead of waiting until the April meeting as previously planned, Council President  Steve McAllister moved second passage to unanimous consent to expedite the ordinance before a moratorium on solar developments expires.

The vote marks the end to a process that began over the summer when the Council was one vote away from approving a previous drafted ordinance.

The final vote wasn’t taken because the title of the ordinance wasn’t worded correctly on the legal notice.

At the same time the Council was facing concerns over solar developments in residential -zoned areas, which 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.

Once City Planner Tom Kravitz came on board, several workshops have taken place to hear community members’ input on the ordinance. He said one of the first tasks he had when he came on board in October was to look at the original proposed ordinance and to see how it could be improved.

One of the biggest differences between the ordinance approved on Monday and the one proposed over the summer is that it doesn’t allow for large scale solar development in residential areas.

Bob Oberg, who helped to rally his neighbors to protest a possible solar project at the Valley Country Club, said that he walked on the golf course over the weekend onto Barton Farm.

“My feet have been hurting and it has been months since I have been able to enjoy this simple pleasure. As I approached a tall oak at the end of a long gradual downhill, it hit me—I had no idea how much I missed this walk. I thought, also, about how close we came to losing it,” said Oberg. “ People are waking up all across Warwick into a city whose farms, forests, and open spaces are safer than they were just one day ago, and much, much safer than they were seven months ago.”

Oberg in an email to other activists who were part of the process said, “we did this with unanimous votes at every turn in a long, complicated process.”

 “I am so happy for so many of us for all the different reasons these spaces matter. I am happy they mattered enough for us to fight for them,” said Oberg. “I am grateful to each of you for your help. I am also grateful to the mayor, planning director, planning board, and city council for listening to us and for responding in a thoughtful, strategic, and respectful manner.  I hope you are able to find a fitting way to celebrate this hard-earned victory.”

Not everyone was happy with the decision regarding the solar ordinance.

ISM Solar CEO Greg Lucini previously said that his company had plans to develop solar on part of the Greater Providence YMCA (Kent YMCA) and the Little Rhody Beagle Club properties. He said that if the Council passed the ordinance, it wouldn’t be a permitted use.

 “If the ordinance being discussed today were to pass, both the YMCA and the Beagle Club have indicated that they would be forced to consider proposals from other developers, likely to include large out-of-state residential developers who are already pursuing the Allen property that immediately abuts the YMCA,” Lucini said during the previous meeting.

In a statement following the meeting Mike Raia a spokesperson for ISM Solar said, “we are obviously disappointed by the Council’s action and will assess our next steps.”

“Rhode Island cannot achieve its ambitious 100 percent renewable goal without making a meaningful commitment to solar,” said Raia. “Local ordinances that indiscriminately block ground-mounted solar developments will leave municipalities vulnerable to overdevelopment and will maintain the state’s overreliance on fossil fuel energy. We will continue to explore opportunities to build responsible solar arrays that preserve undeveloped land in Warwick and beyond in accordance with state and local regulations.”

McAllister said on Tuesday that once Picozzi signs the ordinance, it then gets advertised for 20 days. After that the ordinance goes into effect.

Picozzi said Tuesday morning that he is pleased with the ordinance.

The moratorium on solar development is still in place until the end of April, McAllister said.

solar, ordinance


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