With interest in wind and solar energy on the rise in Hilltown, the board of supervisors updated regulations for wind energy systems and approved the use of solar energy systems at its June 27 meeting.The new ordinance allows both wind and solar energy systems for agricultural, residential and light and heavy industrial uses. Wind energy systems can include either a freestanding pole or a structure attached to a building, with no more than one system per 3-acre lot. The structure cannot exceed 65 feet from the finished grade, including the blade at its highest reach.Solar energy systems may be installed on a roof or on the ground, but ground arrays cannot be placed in a front yard or exceed 20 feet in height. Roof solar panels must be installed on a rear or side-facing roof; however, approval for panels on a front-facing roof can be sought through a conditional use hearing. Roof-mounted solar systems cannot exceed a height of 35 feet.Board of supervisors Chairman Jack McIlhinney cast an opposing vote to the new regulations, objecting to the stipulation that wind energy systems are not permitted in open space areas preserved through a county, state, federal or conservancy preservation program. Open space areas preserved through Hilltown Township are exempt from the stipulation.“Why is the township special?” McIlhinney asked. Energy in the township is used primarily by property owners, and those who have preserved their land should still be able to use it, McIlhinney said.“if the ordinance is good enough for the residents, it should be good enough for us.”Vice Chairwoman Barbara Salvadore said it is appropriate for Hilltown to use its open space lands to generate energy since residents will indirectly benefit from the township reducing expenses. Solicitor Francis Grabowski added that county, state, federal and conservancy programs impose strict regulations on land preserved through those programs.McIlhinney also objected to the fact that residents wishing to mount solar panels on a front-facing roof would have to come before the board, while other residents could install panels without first attending a hearing.in another matter at the June 27 meeting, the board discussed a draft amendment to the zoning ordinance which would allow the use of a conservation management design (CMD) in the country residential-2 (CR2) district, a use currently permitted in the rural residential (RR) district.in April, supervisors asked township engineer Bob Wynn to prepare a draft amendment in response to Deluca Homes’ petition to permit a CMD as part of its proposal to build 59 homes on the Guttman Tract. A number of builders have submitted proposals for developing the 86-acre tract on Green Street, with plans ranging from 45 homes on 20,000-square-foot lots to 99 homes on 10,000-square-foot lots.A CMD is “a subdivision in which the minimum lot area and dimensional requirements are reduced to permit increased flexibility of lot design and environmentally sensitive approach to development and storm-water management,” according to a 2009 zoning ordinance amendment permitting a CMD in the RR district.At the April 25 meeting, McIlhinney voted against the motion for Wynn, Solicitor Francis Grabowski and Zoning Officer Dave Taylor to review the proposal and make recommendations. McIlhinney argued that when the board granted preliminary approval to a 2006 proposal, D’Angelo Construction gave assurance that no more than 45 homes would be built on the tract. For single-family dwellings in the RR district, the draft amendment calls for a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet with 1.75 dwelling units per acre and a minimum open space ratio of 65 percent. in the CR2 district, the requirements are 10,000-square-foot lots with 2.2 dwelling units per acre and 70 percent open space. Lot density is based on the site area remaining after accounting for open space, according to Wynn.The CMD offers flexibility in the way a tract is developed, reducing lot area in order to protect environmental features and preserve open space, Wynn said.“I think Bob did a great job,” Supervisor James Groff said. “He hit it right on the head as far as what we were looking for.”McIlhinney, however, questioned the amendment’s requirement that single-family units in a CMD have public sewer. The current ordinance requires public water but not public sewer for single-family units in the RR and CR2 districts. McIlhinney also cautioned against buffer guidelines for adjacent public parkland that could result in the township “inadvertently taking someone’s land or their right to use their land.”The board agreed to submit the draft amendment to both the township and Bucks County planning commissions for recommendations.
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