Council denies front-facing solar panels

City ordinance update in 2020 still forbids systems that face street

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Waxahachie City Council denied a special-use permit for a rooftop solar panel system for a home on Shetland Court during Monday night's meeting. An SUP was required because some of the panels would have faced the street.

The matter of a rooftop solar panel system facing the front of a home drew the most discussion in a very quick meeting of the Waxahachie City Council on Monday night.

Councilmembers denied a specific-use request for the rooftop system at 203 Shetland Court by a 4-1 vote, with councilmember Melissa Olson voting to allow the system.

In January 2020, the council passed an ordinance permitting solar panels on the sides and rear of rooftops, eliminating the need for SUPs for every solar project. However, language was kept in place not allowing panels on front-facing rooftops.

During a public hearing, Parry DuBois, business manager of applicant Kosmos Solar, asked the council to approve the SUP, saying solar panels facing south, west and east provide the most optimum setup. The home at this location has rooftop elevations facing west and east, with the east side facing the cul-de-sac.

DuBois said the state of Texas incentivizes the use of solar panels to help ease the load on the state’s electric grid in the summer, and prevents homeowner associations from restricting panels. He added that the homeowner needed panels on both the east and west sides to be able to gain the full benefits.

However, public speaker Chris Wright told the council that allowing this system to face the street would set a precedent, opening the door for more street-facing panels.

“The minute you pass it and you let this person do it, how do you tell everyone else they can’t do it in whatever neighborhood they’re in?” Wright asked.

Even though the city received three letters of support from neighbors and none in opposition, the Planning & Zoning Commission had voted 5-0 to deny the zoning change at its Feb. 25 meeting.

All councilmembers were present.

Other items

• The consent agenda consisted of approval of previous minutes, event applications for the St. Jude Car Show on Oct. 2 and 2021 Junk in the Trunk dates, the authorization of funding from park dedication fees for additional costs associated with Chapman Park and Lions Park restrooms; and the ratification of funding recommendations from the TIRZ meeting of Feb. 23.

• A plat for the Buffalo Ridge subdivision was approved, with the allowance of a 10-foot easement instead of a 15-foot easement that is normally required. The property consists of 55.6 acres.

• Correcting a mistake made a couple of years ago when Garden Valley Apartments were constructed at 240 Park Place Boulevard, a final plat for the 11.87-acre lot was approved. City staff determined in December that a final plat had never been completed. However, in spite of the city’s error, the council held that the applicant is still responsible for the $85,200 fee in lieu of park land dedication, and denied a petition for a relief waiver for the dollar amount.

•  The council, after a public hearing, approved a resolution amending guidelines and criteria governing economic development. Every two years, the city must review and update its economic policy.

• Councilmembers approved the city’s application for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant for the city’s Fire Rescue department. Fire Chief Ricky Boyd said the grant would allow the department to hire three new firefighters to fill out staffing for the new Engine No. 4 at Fire Station 4, which is currently scheduled to go into operation in 2023.

• An ordinance was approved that established a fee schedule for cemetery plots and related cemetery fees at the City Cemetery, including new fees for columbarium niches and cover plate engravings. A permanent flat grave marker will be installed after two years of interment at the city’s expense through available cemetery funds if no headstone is placed by that time. 

• A professional engineering services contract with Plumbers Associates, Inc. for the Howard Road water treatment plant high service pump project was approved at a cost of $213,000, which is part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan with funding from water impact fee funds. City utilities director David Bailey said the pump will increase the capacity of water in the system.

• City Manager Michael Scott said the City Council’s mid-year retreat will be held April 13, and a joint meeting of the council and Waxahachie ISD board of trustees will be March 22.

•  Mayor David Hill said the Ellis County COVID-19 vaccination hub at the Waxahachie Senior Center has administered 18,000 vaccinations so far. Hill said the hub will be giving second shots of the Moderna vaccine soon.