Westerville's planning department presented code changes to city council Feb. 15 that would regulate alternative energy systems and seasonal sales and uses.

Westerville's planning department presented code changes to city council Feb. 15 that would regulate alternative energy systems and seasonal sales and uses.

The alternative energy code was introduced to council last year after being approved by the Westerville Planning Commission, but was sent back to the commission following changes proposed by council members.

The proposed alternative energy code aims to regulate items such as solar panels, geo-thermal energy systems, outdoor generators and outdoor furnaces and boilers.

If passed, the code would require any property owner to obtain a permit from the city before installing an alternative energy system. It also puts regulations on setbacks, screening and aesthetics for alternative energy systems and specifies which types of systems are legal and which aren't.

The code does not prohibit outright any type of alternative energy system.

The proposed code came about because the planning department began getting questions from property owners about installing the systems, but the city staff had no area of code to refer to for alternative energy systems guidelines.

"This ordinance was just to help us with requests that we had been getting," city planner Lisa LaMantia said.

Council chairman Mike Heyeck said the city is not taking a stance for or against the use of alternative energy systems.

"This is not an advocacy or non-advocacy of these types of devices. It's just a regulation knowing that they are going to come," Heyeck said.

The proposed seasonal use code would regulate sales such as the Boy Scouts' Uptown pumpkin sale in October, the Uptown farmers markets, Christmas tree lots and outdoor plant nurseries and garden shops in areas zoned R-1, community commercial, Uptown and office institutional.

Like the alternative energy code, the code for seasonal sales and uses was written because the city lacked any code dealing with those things, LaMantia said.

Westerville has not had any issues with those types of uses, she said, and the code was drafted with current recurring sales in mind.

"We've been fortunate that we haven't had problems in the past with these uses. The organizations have been very responsible and run these things well," LaMantia said. "It's really just to fix holes in our code."

Under the code, organizers of seasonal events and sales would have to go before the planning commission to obtain a conditional use permit. For annual events, city staff would have the authority to renew permits.

The code changes will be heard by city council two more times, and there will be a public hearing on the proposed code March 15 before council votes on the code.

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