Lancaster City Council Approves Ordinance Requiring New Residences to Produce Solar Energy

The Lancaster City Council has approved a new ordinance which will require houses built within Lancaster on or after January 1, 2014 to provide an average of 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar-generated electricity per housing unit. The solar ordinance is believed to be a first in the nation.

“Lancaster is already strongly committed to furthering green energy and reducing our carbon footprint. In fact, we’ve been nationally and internationally recognized for our solar achievements. However, to truly establish ourselves as the Alternative Energy Capital of the World, we must continue to take a progressive approach. I would like to commend our Planning Commission for this innovative revision of the Residential Zones, which will rapidly advance us towards becoming a net-zero City in record time,” remarked Mayor R. Rex Parris.

The new ordinance is a comprehensive revision of the City’s current Residential Zoning.  The specific section addressing solar energy systems requires new single family residential units to provide solar-generated power at a minimum average of 1 kW per unit (depending on the type of lot). Installation of solar energy systems is not required for all homes within a production subdivision; however, the builder will still be required to meet the aggregate energy generation requirement within the subdivision.

In addition, the ordinance includes revised development standards, additional design and performance measures, infill development incentives, accessory dwelling unit requirements, provisions allowing corner duplexes, and live-work provisions. The ordinance also contains regulations to implement provisions of the City’s adopted Housing Element and current State housing law, which are necessary to comply with State law.

“City Planning staff and Planning Commissioners did a great job in collaborating with the residential building industry as well as organized real estate and building trade associations to receive input and feedback during the development of this proposed ordinance,” said Planning Commission Chair, James Vose.

Shortly after the adoption of the General Plan Update in 2009, City staff began initial research on the Residential Zones update. An administrative draft was released in June 2011, followed by a public draft in January 2012. Following several outreach efforts and a series of public hearings, the Planning Commission adopted Resolution No. 13-01 on January 28, 2013, recommending to the City Council approval of the City’s Residential Zoning Ordinance. Other zoning code amendments for implementation of specific actions from the City’s Housing Element are also included in the same resolution.

“The layout and design of buildings and streets comprise a crucial component of any thriving cutting-edge city. As such, to ensure that the City of Lancaster remains at the forefront of innovative and progressive design and technology, the Architectural and Design Commission conducted a comprehensive revision of the City’s previous design guidelines, creating new principles which better reflect the current design approach and philosophy,” said Mayor Parris. “This proposed ordinance also reflects Lancaster’s commitment to become a net-zero city.”

The Revised Residential Zoning Ordinance will be considered by the City Council at the March 26 Council Meeting held at 5 p.m. in the Lancaster City Council Chambers (44933 N. Fern Ave).

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