Elementary School Can Build Four-Acre Solar Energy Field

Thursday, August 30, 2018 7:56 am
August 2018 - Volume 46 Number 8

A zoning board improperly denied an elementary school’s application to build a solar energy field on its property based on the newness of the technology and the number of individual solar panels.

Facts: The Northampton Area School District owns 19 acres of land in Lehigh Township, Pennsylvania, and it wanted to install a solar energy field, consisting of 7,000 solar panels, on four acres of that land to help power an elementary school. The School District applied to the Lehigh Township Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) for approval to install the solar energy field as an "accessory use" to the property. The ZHB denied the application, concluding that although the proposed solar energy field was an "accessory use" permitted under the zoning ordinance, the field did not comply with the "requirements of the zone."

The ZHB interpreted the zoning ordinance’s "requirements of the zone" condition to mean that the solar energy field had to be an accessory use "customarily incidental" to a school. Using this test, the ZHB concluded that so[..]