City considers encouraging solar panels, wind turbines for homes

February 24, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

City planners are working to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add solar panels or wind turbines to their homes.

The proposal would add alternative-energy provisions to the city’s land use code at a time when city officials are considering measures to improve the city’s environmental record.

“We wanted to be sure we were embracing this new technology for alternative energy,” Long-Range Planning Manager Trish Heinonen said during the Feb. 19 Council Land Use Committee meeting.

The proposed code amendment would set rules for solar arrays and wind turbines across all types of municipal zones. Heinonen said planners began drafting the proposal after a homeowner called with questions about adding a wind turbine to his property. Officials hope to present the proposal to the Planning Policy Commission by late spring.

Although the devices are unlikely to reduce utility bills, officials pointed to other potential benefits.

“They might not turn your meters backward, but they are good teaching tools,” Heinonen said.

Land Use Committee members also weighed proposed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a roadmap of long-term growth targets. The full City Council will likely consider the proposals next month.

The state Growth Management Act requires the city to prepare, implement and update a comprehensive plan. Issaquah adopted its Comprehensive Plan in 1995.

In 2008, during the last round of Comprehensive Plan amendments, officials added language to address climate change. Now, as the plan goes through its annual update, officials are considering how to best translate the climate-change commitment into city programs.

Councilman John Rittenhouse, a member of the Land Use Committee, said officials should start by asking how to make existing city programs more sustainable.

“We want to start with the things we can control and then start branching out from there,” he said.

Improvements to water and sewer systems, as well as upgrades for city parks, will also be considered among the proposed amendments.

An option to annex the Klahanie area, though unlikely to be pursued, will move forward. The proposed annexation was discussed during the last round of Comprehensive Plan amendment proposals.

Rittenhouse and Councilman John Traeger, who also serves on the Land Use Committee, decided the full City Council should be afforded an opportunity to consider the annexation proposal.

“Unless there’s a reason, I can’t see why we would have to revisit that this year,” Rittenhouse said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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