Monona taking steps to assure solar use in all zoning districts

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The city of Monona is taking steps to assure solar power can be utilized in all its zoning districts.

Solar collectors are currently allowed as an accessory use—meaning they meet setback and distance requirements like any other accessory building or structure—in Monona’s residential and agricultural districts. Now, the city is looking to amend its code of ordinances to permit solar collectors in all commercial and industrial districts as well. 

Solar isn’t currently barred in those areas, noted city administrator Dan Canton at the Aug. 19 council meeting, but the ordinance doesn’t specifically permit solar collectors either. 

An ordinance update would clear that up, he added.

“We’re going after Monona as a solar-friendly community,” Canton said, and two businesses recently inquired if solar was allowed. “You have to look down the road.”

At some point, Canton said the council may also want to consider designating solar as a principal use in some zoning districts. That, for example, would allow people to fill empty city lots or larger chunks of agricultural land with solar panels. Projects could be subject conditional review.

“You could look at and consider it,” he explained, “not just let people do what they want.”

Monona’s planning and zoning commission planned to meet last week to discuss the zoning change. Canton said a public hearing would also be necessary, after which the commission could make a recommendation to the city council. The council will then hold its own public hearing and make a final decision on whether to amend the code of ordinances to allow solar as an accessory use in its commercial and industrial districts. A hearing is currently scheduled for the next regular meeting, on Monday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m.

City seeking candidates for administrator position

Mayor Lynn “Marty” Martinson said a committee recently met to develop a plan to replace Canton, who will retire as city administrator in December.

“The consensus is to post the job, see what’s out there, then sit down and go through the applications and see if we want to interview anyone,” he stated.

Council members said the position should be advertised no later than early September through the Iowa League of Cities and other sources. They plan to accept applications for several weeks before deciding if/when they will interview any of the candidates.

Plans underway for financing Page Street improvements

The council authorized a bond counsel letter of engagement for providing legal services pertaining to the 2019 urban renewal plan amendment and internal loan. They also set a public hearing for Monday, Sept. 23, on the urban renewal plan amendment to use tax increment financing (TIF) for construction of proposed 2020 Page Street improvements within the Monona urban renewal area.

The project, which he estimated could be as much as $400,000 to $425,000, would include updates to Page Street from Center Street to the railroad tracks. An engineer will attend an upcoming meeting to discuss the project further.

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