Solar energy and motels in Webster Township


Photo by American Public Power Association

Webster Township is looking to welcome solar energy to the township under certain requirements and modernize the definition of motels.

The township’s planning commission held public hearings on both at their Dec. 16 meeting, which was held virtually. Afterward they voted on recommendations to the township board, which through its vote could make the changes to the zoning ordinance official.

With solar, the planning commission unanimously recommended an ordinance to amend the Webster Township Zoning Ordinance to authorize, “Small Solar Energy Systems and Large Solar Energy Systems as permitted uses within the Township and establish standards for the uses.”

Andrea Zamansky, Webster Township Planning Commission Chair, said this ordinance addition would “allow and regulate” solar energy systems. She said smaller systems are generally defined as on a household, personal scale while larger ones would possibly be for commercial or utility uses.

She said the solar zoning ordinance also fully considers the health, safety and welfare of the community. In putting together the new ordinance, the township consulted a variety of professional and industry sources.

The ordinance considers a number of areas, from potential impact on wildlife and neighboring properties to security and visual impact.

During the hearing, Zamansky said they had received a letter from township resident Craig Bloomer, who in part asked about the minimum size of the lots for larger systems. He wondered if what the township would allow is too restrictive.

According to the proposed ordinance: A Large Solar Energy System shall be located on one or more parcels with an aggregate area of: (i) 10 acres or greater (if located in the Commercial (C), Office (O) or Industrial (I) zoning district), or (ii) 20 acres or greater (if located in any other zoning district).

Through their research and consultation, Zamansky said the township planning commissioners believe the requirements are standard for a community like Webster. The township used input from professional/industry sources and other municipalities to help determine this.

Bloomer also spoke during the virtual public hearing. He was the only one. He said he understood the township’s rationale on lot size and was glad to see the township working on this.

“I hope that going forward we will be able to support solar development in Webster Township. It’s really important for us,” Bloomer said and thanked the planning commission.

In its decision on motels, the planning commission also unanimously recommended to the township board updated ordinance language.

This is what is recommended: An Ordinance to amend the Webster Township Zoning Ordinance to update the definition of “motel,” for the public health, safety and welfare of the Township.

While the ordinance defines the traditional idea of a motel, the changes to it would better consider more modern concepts like short-term rentals.

The definition would read:

Motel. A building, group of buildings, part of a building, dwelling or dwelling unit used for overnight accommodation of transient guests for compensation on a short-term basis (i.e. stays generally shorter than thirty consecutive days). The term shall include any building, group of buildings, part of a building, dwelling or dwelling unit designated as a hotel, resort, short-term rental or by any other title intended for providing lodging for compensation on a transient basis, but shall not include a Bed and Breakfast, as defined in this Ordinance.

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