(A)   Site development plan approval required. Site plans that meet the design requirements of this section shall be granted administrative approval by the planning department. Prior to initiating construction, all solar energy systems shall first obtain a building and zoning permit in accordance with the Unincorporated Lake County Building Code, as amended. Such building and zoning permit may be issued only after compliance with this section is exhibited. Solar energy systems may be roof-mounted or ground-mounted. Roof- mounted solar energy systems are permitted as an accessory use in all zoning districts. Ground-mounted solar energy systems are permitted as an accessory use in all zoning districts, except Business Districts, Industrial Districts, and Highway Service Districts, where they may be permitted as a special exception.
   (B)   Regulations. The following regulations apply to all solar energy systems in both instances:
      (1)   Height.
         (a)   The preferred placement of the structure is on the roof. Roof-mounted solar energy systems shall be placed flat to the roof pitch. The collector surface and mounting devices shall not extend beyond the exterior perimeter of the building on which the system is mounted or built.
         (b)   Ground-mounted solar energy systems should not exceed ten feet in height. With the exception that ground-mounted solar energy systems located on Agriculturally-zoned parcels 20 acres or greater may not exceed 16 feet in height, provided that the solar energy systems are located in a rear or side-interior yard and meet all setback requirements. Systems should be mounted as close to the ground as possible and in no case higher than the principal structure. Height is measured from the average grade of at the base of the pole to the highest edge of the system.
      (2)   Setbacks. Ground-mounted solar energy systems shall be subject to the setbacks of the zoning districts in which they are located. Freestanding structures shall be located in the side or rear yard of all lots, except that accessory structures shall only be permitted in the rear yard of corner lots.
      (3)   Lot coverage. Ground-mounted solar energy systems are limited in area to the permitted lot coverage for the zoning district in which they are
located. Lots in any zoning district, less than one acre in size, are limited to a total of 400 square feet in area of panels.
      (4)   Glare. All solar energy systems shall be designed and installed to prohibit glare from being directed toward vehicular traffic and any habitable portion of an adjacent structure.
      (5)   Screening. Where feasible, ancillary solar equipment shall be located inside the building or be screened from public view.
      (6)   Other laws, codes, ordinances. All active solar systems shall meet approval of county building officials, consistent with the Indiana Building Code. All photovoltaic systems shall comply with the current edition of the National Electrical Code adopted by the State of Indiana and currently used by Lake County and shall be installed per manufacturer's instructions. No grid-intertie photovoltaic system shall be installed until evidence has been given to the planning department that the owner has submitted a complete and satisfactory application to the utility company to install an interconnected customer-owned generator. Off-grid systems are exempt from this requirement. Solar energy systems shall be erected in a secure, wind resistant manner and be maintained in good condition.
      (7)   Roof access. All roof mounted systems shall allow for emergency access to the roof and adequate smoke ventilation. Pathways to specific areas of the roof and emergency egress from the roof shall be provided.
         (a)   For buildings with pitched roofs, solar collectors shall be located in a manner that provides a minimum of one three-foot wide clear access pathway from the eave to the ridge on each roof slope where solar energy systems are located as well as one three-foot smoke ventilation buffer along the ridge.
         (b)   Residential rooftops that are flat shall have a minimum three-foot wide clear perimeter between a solar energy system and the roofline, as well as a three-foot wide clear perimeter around roof-mounted equipment such as HVAC units.
         (c)    To the extent practicable, the access pathway shall be located at a structurally strong location on the building (such as a bearing wall).
      (8)   Solar access protection.
         (a)   Creation of easements. Solar access easements across contiguous or nearby lots, tracts, or land may be created to establish a window of exposure to the sun so as to protect an existing or intended solar collector's exposure to the sun from obstruction of buildings and trees.
            1.   Such easements may be purchased, reserved, granted, or otherwise obtained.
            2.   Adverse possession cannot create such an easement.
            3.   An easement infringed upon is a compensable property right through private remedy.
         (b)   Recording of easements. Solar access easements shall be recorded with the Lake County Recorder and filed with the Planning Department.
         (c)   Construction in easement areas. Any person seeking a building permit to construct or modify any structure or building so as to increase the consumption of airspace over that lot shall certify in writing that no solar access easement exists over that lot.
         (d)   Denial of permit. Should the Planning Department determine that the proposed construction would intrude upon the easement, no building permit shall be granted.
      (9)   Abandonment. If a solar collector ceases to perform its originally intended function for more than 12 consecutive months, the property owner shall remove the collector, mount, and associated equipment and facilities by no later than 90 days after the end of the 12- month period.
(Ord. 2472, passed 4-12-2016)