Worthington City Council will allow a final round of public input before determining what the new regulations on solar panels in Old Worthington will be.

Worthington issued a moratorium on all new solar panel rulings and installations in an attempt to clarify the city's stance on the issue within its architectural review district.

Current regulations suggest that panels should only be on the back side of a property, but the Worthington Architectural Review Board has approved requests to put panels in other areas, leading to disjointed approaches from the ARB, council and residents.

Councilman Doug Foust summed up council's opinion in January when the moratorium -- which is scheduled to last until May 31, unless a quicker decision is made -- was approved.

"If it's this unclear," he said, "we need to have a conversation."

Now, council has set aside a public comment portion of its March 20 meeting for those who have opinions on the matter.

What they hear at the meeting will be combined with input from an "interested-parties group" that has representation from groups such as Sustainable Worthington, the Old Worthington Association and the Old Worthington Partnership.

Director of Planning and Building Lee Brown's department will then provide council with a recommendation that will hopefully determine a direction to be communicated with the ARB.

"(The hearing) is just to hear what those residents have issues and concerns with," Brown said.

"Then we take that information back to council and say, 'Here's what we've heard; here's what we know ... what would you like to do?' "

Brown and his department have researched around 50 other jurisdictions with restrictions in their architectural review districts, and is researching options like solar shingles and other alternatives to traditional panels.

But he's also working to answer questions and clarify some "misinformation." He said he's often heard that people think there's a full ban on solar panels for the entire city, rather than a restriction only in Old Worthington.

"I think people think you can't have them anywhere in the city, let alone the architectural review district," he said. "So it's been some education."

Ultimately, Brown is looking forward to having a set of understood guidelines.

"We look at regulations where it says, 'place them on the back,' but the board has approved two (on the front) ... with kind of a split vote, and I think they're kind of looking for guidance from city council for how they should handle these in the future," he said. "(New regulations) will give property owners more of an idea of what the restrictions are."

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