To the Editor: Mayor Picozzi deserves a big thank you for his actions on solar development in Warwick. He has pulled back support for a proposed ordinance (PCO-6-20 sub B) which opens all of Warwick's open space and residential land to utility scale
To the Editor:
Mayor Picozzi deserves a big thank you for his actions on solar development in Warwick. He has pulled back support for a proposed ordinance (PCO-6-20 sub B) which opens all of Warwick’s open space and residential land to utility scale solar. He has outlined an alternative approach which would allow utility scale solar facilities in industrial areas only and encourages rooftop and solar canopies in commercial areas.
At the public meeting sponsored by the Mayor on Wednesday, Oct. 6, an overflow crowd at the Police Station responded positively to the general approach and emphasized the importance of taking the time to get it right.
Now it is time for the City Council to demonstrate that they are true partners in the effort to set a sound solar strategy for Warwick. The original “free-for-all” version of the solar ordinance is still teed up for a public hearing and final passage on Monday, Oct. 18.
Instead, the Council should 1) drop its consideration of the original proposal, 2) refer the solar ordinance back to the Planning Board for redrafting with plenty of opportunity for public and stakeholder input, and 3) institute a moratorium on utility scale solar development for the six months to a year it will take to craft a sound ordinance.
Communities throughout Rhode Island have struggled with the question of how to manage solar development. Cranston passed a weak ordinance, then went back to the drawing board with a one-year moratorium after the public outcry. Exeter has revisited its ordinance nine times. Hopkinton has faced legal challenges to its solar ordinance from both developers and neighboring residents. There are big costs and lost opportunities if Warwick doesn’t take the time to do it right.
Solar is a new and intensive land use that presents us with huge tradeoffs. If done poorly it will damage Warwick’s community character, consume its natural resources, displace other economic activities, and even undermine our efforts to address climate change. So we need to get it right.
Warwick’s current zoning laws limit solar development to General Industrial areas with a Special Use permit. Leave them in place until a good, solid alternative is developed. Warwick citizens want a real voice in shaping the City’s solar future. It is time for the City Council to make that happen.
Jane Kenney Austin
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