Beginning in mid-September, South Miami, Florida, becomes the first city in the state and the first outside California to require solar panels in new residential construction.
The new rules, passed by the City Commission on a 4-1 vote over the objections of local building associations, affects new houses larger than 1,100 square feet. For every 1,000 square feet of sunlit roof area, 175 square feet of solar panels must be installed, The Miami Herald reported. Houses that are built under existing trees will be exempted.
Renovated houses where more than 75% of the structure is replaced, or houses enlarged by more than 75%, also will be covered. The law does not apply to commercial properties, but it will cover townhouses and multi-story residential buildings.
South Miami joins several California cities in requiring solar panels on new construction, including Lancaster, Sebastapol, Santa Monica, and San Francisco, according to a post at Greentech Media.
But the impact of the new rule in South Miami, a city of some 12,000 people, will apparently be limited. According to the Herald, the 2.3-square-mile city is mostly residential and mostly built out, with fewer than a dozen permits issued annually for new construction.
Building associations object
South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a biology professor at Florida International University, has been pressing for passage of the ordinance for years. “It’s not going to save the world by itself,” he said following the July 18 vote, “but it’s going to get people thinking about [solar].”
Others were not as enthused. One city resident, who said he’s a “really big fan” of technology, urged the City Commission to delay passage of the measure and warned residents affected by the rule would not see the return on investment that proponents had promised.
Critics also included Truly Burton, executive vice president of the Builders Association of South Florida, and Eric Montes de Oca, president-elect of the Miami Chapter of the Latin Builders Association. Both argued a better approach would be to encourage city residents to add solar rather than require them to.
“If anyone who does not want to have solar panels, then they are not welcome to live in South Miami,” Montes de Oca said in a letter to the newspaper prior to the vote. “This, I would argue, runs counter to our individual freedoms. It has the potential to increase considerably the cost to construct a new home and negatively affect new home construction within South Miami.”
The National Association of Home Builders said in a statement at its website the mandate “is casting a long shadow for builders in the Sunshine State.”
Josh Liebman, the sole commissioner to vote against the proposal, told The Real Deal the measure would slow the development of affordable housing and low-income neighborhoods. “This is government bureaucracy on the most micro-level,” he said. “We must protect freedom of choice.”