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City Council “getting back on track” with pre-pandemic environment initiatives

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Athens City Council returned to environment-related discussions that began before the pandemic regarding solar power and weeds during their virtual committee meeting Monday.  

Councilmember Chris Fahl discussed proposed changes to city zoning code that will make it easier for buildings to install solar power by including solar energy systems as a permitted use for buildings. This would eliminate the need for buildings to acquire a special permit to use a solar energy system.

Athens participates in SolSmart, which is a program that “recognizes local government for spurring solar market growth,” according to the SolSmart website. Currently, Athens is designated as a SolSmart Bronze community, and the proposed changes would be a step in upgrading Athens to the silver designation, Fahl said. 

Oberlin is currently the only city in Ohio to have a silver designation. 

City Planner Paul Logue said the changes had been vetted by both the sustainability and planning commissions, and they were originally planned to be brought up in April during the 50th anniversary celebration of Earth Day. 

“We’re trying to get this back on track from something that we thought would have been settled four or five months ago,” Logue said. “I look at that as success that we’re able to be working on things from earlier this year that we lost track of for a few months.”

In February, City Council passed a climate emergency resolution that outlined efforts the city will take in 2020 to work toward climate-related goals. 

Fahl also explained a proposed change to mowing requirements for weeds. If citizens are members of the Athens pollinator program and growing non-invasive plants, they will be exempt from the height requirements. However, a homeowner cannot have noxious or invasive weeds. 

“When COVID hit and everything closed down, it was the Earth Day celebration and the Athens Beautification day, which was going to try to plant 800 trees, and all those things just got completely blown out. But now we’re getting back on track,” Fahl said. 

In other business, the Arts West building is still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Arts West Director Terri Moore will speak with Athens City Council at their Sept. 28 committee meeting to further update the community. 

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