CORRECTION: The first quote in this story incorrectly identified the Warwick City Council President. Warwick Post regrets, and has corrected, this error.
WARWICK, RI — The Warwick City Council voted unanimously on second passage for a six-month solar moratorium Monday night, the first in a series of steps to study siting solar power in the City.
“So this gives us the most flexibility. It’s also the conservative move,” said Council President Steve McAllister.
Last month, the Warwick City Council voted unanimously on first passage for a six month solar moratorium on solar power installations in the city on the advice of Warwick City Solicitor Bill Walsh.
The moratorium, suggested during an earlier workshop on solar regulations in the city, must make a second passage tonight, after which the moratorium will need to be noticed in local papers before it is considered to be in legal effect, said Walsh.
Michael Zarum, a member of the Warwick Land Trust and a Ward 2 resident, said he was thankful to the supporters and officials who had established the moratorium. He pointed out that the moratorium is the first of three ordinances that will be required to give the city enough time to study solar installations in the city and then to pass rules governing them. Next, he said, there will need to be a comprehensive plan amendment, and an ordinance to approve that amendment.
“At the same time there will also be a solar regulatory ordinance to regulate solar going forth,” Zarum said.
Doug McCusker voiced skepticism about a clause allowing the council to end the moratorium early by passing an ordinance governing solar installations.
“I don’t see how a moratorium that’s supposed to last six months to give everybody a chance to understand better what we’re facing as a city, should also have a back door where this City Council can go ahead and create an ordinance. A moratorium is a moratorium. It’s a stop. It’s an all-stop,” McCusker said.
Bob Oberg asked the Council to make sure they passed the moratorium the second and final time as quickly as possible, to prevent an applicant from putting solar installations in someplace under the old ordinance while the moratorium is in the works. Further, he urged officials to put it in effect as quickly as possible to minimize the risk of a grandfathered application.
Jane Austin was also in support of the moratorium. “You’re setting the stage for an important strategic discussion that’s going to have implications for the city for a long time,” she said.
“There is a push for ground-based solar that is not in the best interests of either the energy or the neighborhood,” said Rich Hittinger, Warwick resident and a former part-owner of New England Green Energy.
McAllister noted that changes to the moratorium would send it back to first passage, which would delay it being implemented.
Councilman Rix agreed that changes would delay the ordinance. He also asked the City Solicitor if the language allowing the council to end the moratorium prior to six months upon a new ordinance was necessary. The solicitor noted that it was in place to differentiate it from a straight prohibition during that time, which would be easily challenged in court.
“We are trying to say that we are seeking a certain amount of time associated with the well thought out path of objectives that need to be completed. And should there need to be more time, the council will have the ability at that time to adjust time, the council will have the ability at that time to justify such an extension.”
“I think this is a perfect example of listening to the people and hearing what they had to say,” said Councilman Ed Ladouceur.
The second passage received a unanimous vote.
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