Item Coversheet

Ordinances - R5  J




COMMISSION MEMORANDUM

TO:Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Commission 
FROM:Alina T. Hudak, City Manager 
DATE:October  13, 2021
 

First Reading

SUBJECT:SOLAR PANELS - SETBACK EXCEPTIONS IN SINGLE-FAMILY DISTRICTS AN ORDINANCE OF THE MAYOR AND CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA, AMENDING THE CODE OF THE CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, SUBPART B, ENTITLED “LAND DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS,” BY AMENDING CHAPTER 142, ENTITLED “ZONING DISTRICTS AND REGULATIONS,” ARTICLE II, ENTITLED “DISTRICT REGULATIONS,” DIVISION 2, ENTITLED “RS-1, RS-2, RS-3, RS-4 SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS,” BY AMENDING SECTION 142-106, ENTITLED “SETBACK REQUIREMENTS FOR A SINGLE-FAMILY DETACHED DWELLING,” TO MODIFY SINGLE-FAMILY SETBACK REGULATIONS PERTAINING TO SOLAR PANELS AND RELATED EQUIPMENT; AND PROVIDING FOR REPEALER, CODIFICATION, SEVERABILITY, AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE.

RECOMMENDATION

The Administration recommends that the City Commission approve the subject Ordinance at First Reading and schedule a Second Reading / Public Hearing for December 8, 2021.

BACKGROUND/HISTORY

HISTORY
On April 29, 2021, at the request of Commissioner Mark Samuelian, the City Commission referred a discussion item to the Land Use and Sustainability Committee (LUSC) and Planning Board pertaining to allowable setback encroachments for solar panels and related equipment in single family zoning districts (item C4M). On July 12, 2021 the LUSC reviewed a draft Ordinance modifying the interior side and rear setback requirements for solar panels and related equipment and recommended that the Planning Board transmit the Ordinance to the City Commission with a favorable recommendation.

BACKGROUND
On March 13, 2019, City Commission adopted an Urban Heat Island Ordinance, which allows for solar carports as an allowable front yard encroachment and for solar panels to be an allowable height exception in single family districts. The Ordinance also provides greater height for a rooftop curb in order to facilitate screening of the panels and explicitly states that solar panels are an allowable accessory use in all zoning districts. In addition, this Ordinance provides that public hearing fees for the installation of a "sustainable roofing system," " solar carport," porous pavement," or" cool pavement" are waived.

Once the City adopted its Urban Heat Island Ordinance, it received the Solsmart Gold designation. Solsmart is a national agency that certifies local governments as having regulations that facilitate the installation of solar panels. This designation is intended to encourage solar installers to work within the City by showcasing its efforts to remove existing barriers and lower soft costs.

ANALYSIS

PLANNING ANALYSIS
The rise of solar power over the past decade has been largely driven by cities. In these densely populated areas, solar power is helping to clean the air and reduce pollutant emissions, strengthen electric grids, provide consumers security against volatile energy costs, and improve the environment and residents’ quality of life. Several cities have set robust goals for solar energy adoption including the implementation of programs and policies that promote the rapid expansion of solar energy, expanding access to all residents, installing solar energy systems on government buildings, and urging state and federal officials and investor-owned utilities to facilitate the growth of solar energy.

The existing Land Development Regulations (LDRs) for single family homes do not allow solar panels as an allowable encroachment within rear and side yard setbacks. Therefore, a person seeking to place solar panels in their required rear and side yards would need to seek a variance. The proposed Ordinance addresses this issue by allowing solar panels and home battery systems as an allowable encroachment within rear and side yard setbacks for a single-family homes and provides a maximum height for the equipment not to exceed five (5) feet above maximum yard elevation. These allowances are the same as those allowed for other types of mechanical equipment and should not negatively impact neighbors, especially since this type of equipment does not generate loud noise. This Ordinance further removes barriers to the adoption and installation of solar energy systems that can improve the resilience of single-family homes, particularly during energy outages.

PLANNING BOARD REVIEW
On September 28, 2021, the Planning Board held a public hearing and transmitted the Ordinance to the City Commission with a favorable recommendation by a vote of 5-0.  The Planning Board also recommended that the equipment identified in this Ordinance also be allowed to follow any legal non-conforming setbacks for similar encroachments.

The Administration would not recommend including this suggestion of the Planning Board, as the extent of existing legal non-conforming encroachments could be significantly exacerbated. Also, in a number of instances, it is difficult to determine whether an existing non-conforming encroachment is, in fact, legally established.

APPLICATION FEE WAIVER
The subject amendment was referred on a comprehensive, citywide basis, and not on behalf of a private applicant or third party. Pursuant to section 118-162(c) of the Land Development Regulations of the City Code, amendments to the City Code require the payment of the applicable fees in section 118-7 and Appendix A. These fees may be waived by a five-sevenths (5/7ths) vote of the City Commission, based upon one or more of the following circumstances:

1. The City Manager determines, in writing, that the proposed amendment is necessary due to a change in federal or state law, and/or to implement best practices in urban planning;

2. Upon written recommendation of the city manager acknowledging a documented financial hardship of a property owner(s) or developer(s); and/or

3. If requested, in writing, by a non-profit organization, neighborhood association, or homeowner's association for property owned by any such organization or association, so long as the request demonstrates that a public purpose is achieved by enacting the applicable amendment.

The City Manager has determined that the proposed amendment is necessary to implement best practices in urban planning.

SUPPORTING SURVEY DATA

Improve Sustainability and Resiliency Efforts Citywide

CONCLUSION

The Administration recommends the following:

1. In accordance with section 118-162(c) of the City Code, the City Commission waive the applicable application fees based upon the legislation implementing best practices in urban planning.

2. The City Commission approve the subject Ordinance at First Reading and set a Second Reading/Public Hearing for December 8, 2021.

Applicable Area

Citywide
Is this a "Residents Right to Know" item, pursuant to City Code Section 2-14? Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?
Yes No 
Legislative Tracking
Planning
Sponsor
Commissioner Mark Samuelian

ATTACHMENTS:
Description
Ordinance