MINUTES

Planning and Zoning Commission

February 2, 2012

 

            The Clarkson Valley Planning and Zoning Commission, pursuant to notices published in the St. Louis Countian on January 18, and the West Newsmagazine on January 25 and all notices to homes within 500' of the proposal mailed on January 18, 2012 met on Thursday, February 2, 2012, at the Fru-Con Building to consider one agenda item and to make a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen.

 

            Planning and Zoning Commission members present were:

                        Frank Hodgdon, Chairman

                        Susan Shea

                        Gregg Bogosian

                        John Cloute

                        Jerry Litschgi

                        Members Artie Ahrens and Anne Grabner were unable to attend

                        City Attorney, Patrick Butler; Building Commissioner, Jack Schenck; and City Clerk, Michele McMahon also attended

 

            After the meeting was called to order the Chairman introduced Commission Members and read the Notice of Public Hearing for the first agenda item: To consider Mr. James Babb's request for a Special Use Permit to locate a building mounted solar energy system on the roof consisting of 52 panels and a ground mounted solar energy system consisting of 48 panels to be situated 96' 8" from the west side yard at the property known as 2001 Kehrsdale Ct. in the Kehrs Mill Estates Subdivision, Plat 5, Section 1 and to make a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen.

 

Mr. Hodgdon stated the Commission received a request from Commission Member Jerry Litschgi to speak about the proposal and then turned the floor over to him.  Mr. Litschgi asked the Planning & Zoning Commission Members why this is considered a Planning & Zoning issue?  The City Attorney fielded the question and read Paragraph D of Section 405.120 of the code. 

 

            Jim Babb then responded to one of Mr. Litschgi's questions, which was how can this Board convene when the Application is deficient by virtue of the Building Commissioner's Memo listing four items that require correction.  He stated, with help in wording from the City Attorney, that his proposal would require three variances but in order to go through that process, he needs a Special Use Permit in order to begin. 

 

            Jim Babb then presented his request to the crowd of approximately twenty-five citizens.  He stated he owns 4.56 acres of land and that his house is situated 360' from the curb.  He explained his original request called for 100 panels to be mounted on the roof but learned from the Monarch Fire Protection plan review that this request would be contrary to their code and a potential hazard due to inaccessibility for fire fighters.  His request is now to locate 52 panels on the roof and 48 panels on the ground.  He went into detail of the configuration for both systems:  The building mounted system consists of 13 panels tilted upward on the north side of the roof and the remaining panels mounted flat against the south, front-facing roof which has a 12 12 pitch.  The ground mounted system consists of three structures with 16 panels each.  He gave the dimensions of each panel as 39" x 65-1/2" and said each panel generates 250 watts for a total of 25,000 DC watts.  He then showed copies of three articles he pulled from the internet stating that houses increase in value with solar panels.

 

            Commission Member Susan Shea, who also serves as Alderperson from Ward 1 of which Mr. and Mrs. Babb are residents, mentioned that a majority of Members of the Board of Aldermen drove around the metropolitan area last month to view properties with approved solar energy systems installed.  She said none of the systems they witnessed had as many panels as Mr. Babb is proposing.  Mr. Babb stated that is a matter of personal preference plus, not to mention - the cost involved.  At that point, Commission Member Jerry Litschgi asked the cost of Mr. Babb's system and inquired as to who is paying?  Mr. Babb stated Ameren is paying $50,000 for this proposed 25 kw system and he is paying $70,000.  The Federal Government will reimburse 30% of the portion he pays.

 

            The Planning & Zoning Chairman, Frank Hodgdon, asked for proponents.  Frances Babb spoke as a proponent stating they worked hard to make this proposal in the least obtrusive manner as possible.  Mrs. Holly Mathis also spoke as a proponent. 

 

The Planning & Zoning Chairman, Frank Hodgdon, asked for opponents.  Mr. Conroy showed pictures of the Babb's house taken from his house and said the solar panels along with the two cell towers will impede the value of his property.  He asked if Mr. Babb had or would consider solar shingles?  Mr. Babb said the technology isn't there yet.  Mr. Dennis Norton spoke saying that Mr. Babb's property value might increase but it quite probably will make the neighboring property values decrease.  He concluded by saying he thinks Mr. Babb should install a total ground mounted system.  Mr. Babb responded to that by saying he would have to remove too many mature trees and the fact that he is already proposing to lose fifteen hurts him enough.

 

A next-door neighbor to the east of the Babb's, Mr. and Mrs. Andy and Ellen Barnett both spoke against the proposal.  Andy saying the project is too ambitious and that trees should not be considered permanent shields from his ability to see the panels.  He also mentioned that from his house, contrary to what Mr. Babb conveyed, the Babb's roof is visible.  Mrs. Barnett spoke about the size of the system and wondered if in fact, the City should consider the project a business.  She also mentioned the configuration on the roof and asked if there was a designer who could better arrange the panels.  She brought up issues like trash and debris collecting under the panels, birds building nests under the panels and how long the panels will last and if the ordinance requires cleanup and/or their removal if necessary?  Mr. Babb stated the lifetime linear power guarantee from the manufacturer gives 25 years but he anticipates the panels will last 40 years.  She asked Mr. Babb the total square footage to which Mr. Babb did not know off-hand but it is approximately 1,775 square feet - in total. 

 

Mr. Robert Meckfessel, who is a resident of Forest Hills Club Estates spoke of his concern with solar panels, saying the City might be jumping the gun by approving the application of a system whose technology is evolving.  He concluded by stating the ordinance is rather subjective and recommended the Commission vote no.

 

Another neighbor of the Babb's, who lives one street over, said you would have to stand on their tub to see the Babb's roof, but he does not want to have to see the panels.  He stated he has a home in California and everyone out there has a solar energy system with blue panels and at least this proposal isn't requesting blue panels.

 

Jim Babb gave his closing argument by stating the RSMo statute 442.012.1 granting solar energy as a property right. 

 

The Commission Members asked their final questions, mostly dealing with the number of panels and the possibility of only applying for a ground mounted system.  Mr. Babb gave the reasons he would not consider that as being three-fold: He would have to go back to Ameren for approval for the re-configuration; he would have to cut down additional trees; and he likes the way he has presented it.

 

A vote was taken with the motion to accept the proposal as stated on the agenda with the following result:  Yeas:  Hodgdon, Shea, Bogosian and Cloute.  Nays:  Litschgi.  Whereupon the motion was declared as having passed.

 

A second "advisory" motion was formulated with input from the Commission Members to make a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen to consider accepting an amended application by minimizing the number of roof panels and increasing the number of ground mounted panels with the following result:  Yeas:  Hodgdon, Shea and Cloute.  Nays:  Bogosian and Litschgi.  Whereupon the motion was declared as having passed.

 

Patrick Butler explained to Mr. Babb this affirmative recommendation would go to the Board of Aldermen.  He told all those present the Board Meeting would be held Tuesday, February 7 at 7:30 in this same room.  If the Board of Aldermen approves the application for a Special Use Permit, Mr. Babb will still require variances from the Board of Adjustment.

 

Mr. Litschgi asked for the Commission to consider the motion he requested at the beginning of the meeting.  The Chairman stated the agenda only allowed discussion of Mr. Babb's request to consider his Application and Mr. Litschgi's request was denied.

 

            The meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.

 

                                                            Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

 

                                                            Frank W. Hodgdon III, Chairman

                                                            Planning and Zoning Commission

                                                            City of Clarkson Valley