|Village Trustees Put Six-Month Moratorium on Alternative Energy Projects|
|Written by Meredith Matthews|
Dec. 16, 2009: Question: When is a moratorium not a sign of disapproval? Answer: When it's meant to actually encourage in the long-term the very behavior that it prohibits in the short term.
Confused? So were some of the other attendees at the Dec. 14 Bronxville Village Board meeting, at which trustees enacted a six-month moratorium on new solar panels, wind turbines, and other alternative ways of generating electricity.
The trustees posited the moratorium as necessary for the village to formulate a sound approach to these projects. "Our regulations need to catch up with the technologies," explained Village Attorney James Staudt. The trustees and other Bronxville officials plan to use the moratorium to study the safety, aesthetic, and other issues posed by alternative-energy sources, in hopes of building a strong code that guides property owners who wish to employ these structures.
The matter was brought to the board's attention by Superintendent of Buildings Vincent Pici. Mayor Mary Marvin said that colleagues from the New York State Conference of Mayors also suggested imposing such a moratorium so that sound rules regarding alternative energy structures could be developed. "There's a vacuum in the laws," she pointed out, which allows such structures to be constructed free from municipal supervision, though, to date, the village has not received any requests to build any.
Before the trustees voted to approve the moratorium, several members of the public voiced concern. Barrett Silver, director of sales at Mercury Solar Systems of Port Chester, noted that other communities such as Bedford had relaxed their building codes to encourage homeowners to install solar panels. He asked the trustees not to enact a "harsh and, I think, counterproductive moratorium."
In response, Trustee Glenn Bellitto, who serves on the village's Green Committee, said that the moratorium would be an "opportunity to have a six-month village conversation" about how best to introduce these technologies to Bronxville. And Marvin added that comparing Bronxville to Bedford is analogous to comparing "apples and oranges" because homes here are so close to the property lines, as opposed to the often-sprawling properties further north.
Patrick Gasparro, co-owner and manager of Nature's Cradle Nursery in Eastchester, worried that the law would affect projects such as the "green roof" of vegetation that was recently installed at The Bronxville School. Staudt said that projects such as the green roof would not fall under the law because their purpose is to conserve energy, not to generate it in the same way that solar panels or windmills do. Marvin added that the purpose of the law is actually to eventually support alternative-energy technologies by codifying best practices: "The worst way to encourage [them] is to allow structures that are not very well-thought-out."
Charles Cinquemani, chair of Tuckahoe's environmental committee, noted that New York state incentives to install solar panels continue throughout 2010. But by enacting the moratorium, therefore, the village would deprive property owners of six months during which they could take advantage of those incentives. According to Marvin, the law includes an appeals process which would give consideration to well-planned and time-sensitive projects.
Ultimately, concluded Bellitto, "This time will be very well-spent. So many people are committed to making Bronxville more green. We're just putting some parameters around the issue."