Architectural Review Board to review solar panel use, Precarious Beer patio application

rarriaza@vagazette.com

Williamsburg residents with opinions on the installation of solar panels on city homes will get a chance to make their voices heard at an Architectural Review Board meeting Tuesday evening.

The board will hold a public hearing next week to discuss possible amendments to city zoning regulations that would allow roof-mounted solar panels in the city’s entrance corridors and historic neighborhoods.

According to Carolyn Murphy, director of planning and codes compliance, current city zoning ordinance does not include any specific guidelines on the installation and placement of solar panels. She said the city now finds itself required to address the issue after new solar facility-related legislation was passed in the most recent session of the General Assembly.

Building-mounted solar and thermal facilities are allowed by right in all zoning districts since July 1 following the approval of HB 508 in the state legislature, but the legislation states that solar units must comply will all requirements set by a locality for a given zoning district. At a June City Council meeting on the topic, city attorney Christina Shelton said solar panel installations are still subject to Architectural Review Board regulations for the architectural preservation and corridor protection districts.

The expected recommendations will allow the use of roof-mounted solar panels in two of the city’s architectural preservation district zones, but would ban their use in Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area and the old campus of the College of William and Mary. The panels would be allowed in the other two zones, which encompass College Terrace, Burns Lane, Indian Springs and Capitol Landing Road.

The application guidelines also would apply to major entrance corridors into the city, which include Richmond Road, Monticello Avenue and Route 199.

If approved, the guidelines would require solar panels to leave the building’s roofing undamaged, regulate the placement of the panels and require panels to match the building’s existing roof color. The panels would also need to be hidden from view from Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area.

Erin Burke, Williamsburg’s principal planner, said the Architectural Review Board has reviewed two solar panel installations in the city, and that these zoning amendments could make the process easier for future applicants.

Sarah Stafford, a William and Mary professor and former Planning Commission member, was one of those applicants, and went through the ARB approval process earlier this summer. She said she became interested in using solar energy in her home after connecting with Hampton Roads solar energy co-op Solar United Neighbors.

“That took us from thinking ‘one day we’ll go solar’ to making it really easy to do, but obviously in Williamsburg, there’s that additional hurdle of going through the Architectural Review Board process,” she said.

Following the board’s recommendation for approval, the new guidelines are expected to go before Planning Commission at its Oct. 17 meeting. The zoning code amendments would then go to City Council for final approval in November.

Precarious Beer Project patio application

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Architectural Review Board is also expected to review design concepts for an outdoor patio space to be added to the front of the Precarious Beer Company microbrewery coming to Merchants Square.

Its owners want to add an ADA-compliant ramp and steps, along with lights and outdoor furnishings, two decorative wood trellises and a masonry fire pit. Precarious Beer representatives will also petition for a new fabric canopy to be placed over the patio space, the removal of a balcony slab on the south side of the building and the modification of three arched windows on the building to allow for the installation of double doors into the brewery.

Precarious Beer owner Andrew Voss said all the requested changes are for the planned patio area, which will be at the at the former site of Season’s Restaurant at the corner of Francis Street and South Henry Street. Burke said because the request is still in conceptual review, the patio’s size has not yet been determined.

The application is expected to go before Planning Commission at its Sept. 19 meeting, but first needs to be conceptually approved by the ARB.

The board will also review a list of colors and materials planned for 38 new townhomes being developed by Holly Hills LLC on a 6.8-acre plot of land off of Route 199.

Want to go?

Where: Stryker Center, Meeting Room 128, 412 N. Boundary St.

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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