Solar panels vs. views -- new Green Codes to allow increased building height

The City of Kirkland is studying Citywide amendments to the Zoning Code to implement sustainable development policies in the Natural Resources Management Plan, the City's Climate Action Plan, and the Comprehensive Plan. The plans come under the city's Green Codes Project.

The purpose of this project is to develop specific sustainable development action items that can be translated into additions and amendments to the Zoning and Municipal Codes. These changes should help incentivize citizens, developers, and property owners in Kirkland to protect and enhance our water, energy, and material resources.

Some citizens have raised concerns about the proposed changes to height regulations. In particular, an exemption to the building height regulations would permit owners of flat-roofed buildings to install solar panels of up to twenty inches above the maximum height limit of the zone in which they are installed.

Under the proposed height regulations exception, installation of solar panels twenty inches above current height limits would have a negative impact on the views of neighboring property owners, thus lowering the value of the impacted properties.

The passage of concern is quoted here:

KZC 115.60.2.a.4 and KZC 115.60.2.b.4, Height Regulations- Exception – This section allows exemptions to the height regulations for solar panels on sloped and flat roofs. Solar panels installed in our region function most efficiently facing south and at an angle of 30- 32 degrees. It is much easier to achieve this angle on sloped roofs mounted six inches above the roof to which they are attached. Flat roofs need a greater allowance to the height regulations to achieve the same angle of 30-32 degrees. Therefore, the height allowance for flat roofs has been proposed at 20 inches maximum above the height limit of the zone in which they are installed.

A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 7 p.m. in the Kirkland City Hall Council Chambers, 123 5th Avenue. The public hearing is being held jointly by the Planning Commission and Houghton Community Council. The full text of the proposed green codes is available at http://www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/Planning/Planning_Commission.htm

Currently, the city offers a six inch exemption to the height regulations for homes with pitched roofs for installation of solar panels.