Granville Village Council voted Wednesday evening to approve a revised ordinance to regulate the installation of solar panels on homes and other buildings in the village, as well as on the ground in yards and open spaces.

Solar panels have gained popularity in Granville as a cost-effective energy source that is environmentally friendly. One concern, and a reason for the regulations, is how to manage the aesthetics of solar panels in a village full of historic structures dating to a time before solar panels and electricity.

The new regulations address that concern as well as ensuring that their placement meets fire and building codes. Residents who raised concerns that resulted in the council tabling the first draft for more work in August said they were pleased with the new version.

“I think we felt heard, and even though we started with different views on the ordinance draft, there was civil discourse all along the way in working through some compromises,” said Carol Apacki, who lives with her husband, Ken, in The Village Roots, a relatively new, green-themed subdivision off of West Broadway.

And Jeremy King, a Granville resident and director of sustainability and campus improvement at Denison University, said the council had exceeded his expectations in some areas. For example, he said, the council has included a separate section in the ordinance for Community Solar Energy Systems, which will be beneficial for both Denison and Granville Schools.

For rooftop applications, solar arrays will be permitted if they comply with existing zoning and building regulations. For ground applications, residents will need to follow some standard rules to maintain the historical characteristics of Granville buildings. This prohibits the installation of ground-mounted solar arrays in front yards in the core of the village. To be installed in a side yard, the solar panels will need administrative review.

The ordinance approved by the council was drafted with input from the community. The village planners and the council consulted Granville residents, and Denison University and Granville Schools officials and students. The council also hired a solar sustainability expert from Power A Clean Future Ohio, John Paul, who has researched model solar codes from midwestern towns of similar size and character.

“He gave us many ideas that we have incorporated in our best practices,” said Granville Village Council Member Laurel Mickelson. “It wasn’t just that we got from here to here all of a sudden. It’s been a tremendous process.”

The new ordinance addresses two main concerns solar advocates raised about the original ordinance.

The original version included vague language about regulating glare from the surface of the panels, which critics said was subjective and difficult to measure. Additional language would have made it virtually impossible to install the panels on one-story homes and other one-story buildings, including school and college buildings.

The sentence stating that solar panels could not cause glare was deleted from the final ordinance. So was the language about one-story homes and other buildings.

The ordinance approved by the council says that “it is in the public interest to encourage Solar Energy Systems that have a positive impact on energy conservation, with limited adverse impact on the community. While the Village of Granville finds that increased use of Solar Energy Systems is an important component of community sustainability, reasonable restrictions that protect the public health, safety, and welfare; preserve the enjoyment of private property; promote orderly land use; and maintain property values and historic aesthetics are necessary to harmonize the interests of all Village residents.”

Solar energy systems built or installed prior to the effective date of the new regulations will be grandfathered and won’t be required to meet the requirements of this code – “unless any physical condition or modification renders the system unrepairable or unuseable.” If any pre-existing solar energy system is destroyed or damaged, can’t be repaired and is being removed or replaced, the removal and any new system will require an application and review by the village planning office under the new regulations.

The same is true for an expansion of an existing solar energy system. The expansion will need to be reviewed, but village officials can waive associated fees when the expansion occurs within four years of the original installation.

Repair of an existing system previously permitted under the new regulations will not require an additional application. And the regulations will not apply to standalone systems for small accessory lighting, ventilation, or battery storage systems, either roof or ground-mounted. “In such a case, the cumulative area of the standalone system shall not exceed two square feet.”

Filing an application for a zoning permit for solar panels will carry a fee of $100, and in reviewing an application for approval, the Planning and Development Director, or that person’s designee, will consider the following factors:

– A narrative description of the proposed system, including the number, manufacturer, and model of the solar panels to be installed, and a description of ancillary systems.

– A site plan, to scale, of the property showing the proposed location of the solar panels in relation to property lines and buildings on the property.

– A description of emergency and normal shutdown procedures and location of electrical disconnection switch.

The ordinance says that roof-mounted systems will be permitted in all zoning districts, provided that the systems comply with all other requirements of zoning and building regulations, subject to the following restrictions:

– Pitched roof-mounted arrays must be parallel to the roof. The distance between the roof and the uppermost portion of the solar panels shall not exceed 12 inches.

– They must meet fire and building safety codes.

– Panels on a flat roof can’t project vertically more than two feet from the surface of the roof and must be buffered as much as practical so they are not visible from public streets or adjacent properties.

There are additional requirements for solar panels proposed for properties in the village’s historic district, known as the Architectural Review Overlay District:

– Solar panels must be “installed in a manner which does not damage or obscure character-defining features of an historic resource. Solar panels should be located so as not to change an historic roofline or obscure the relationship of an historic roof to character-defining features such as dormers and chimneys.”

– Installation must be reversible and not damage the historic integrity of any structure.

– Installation must be on a rear-facing roof of a primary structure, or on an accessory structure and not readily visible from the right-of-way, in a rear yard location not readily visible from the public right-of-way, or on a side-facing side roof of any structure that is not readily visible from the right-of-way.

Pol Le writes for, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is supported in part by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Pol Le

Pol Le is a freshman at Denison University. She has been published as an intern at The Reporting Project and Denisonian. She is also a member of Denison Asian Student Union, Denison Korea Dancing Group, and Delta Gamma Sorority. After graduation, she wants to go back to Vietnam and become a journalist in tourism and the environment.