The Flower Mound Town Council on Monday approved amendments to the land development regulations to provide guidelines for solar panels on residential property.
The council tabled the vote two weeks ago when council members could not come to an agreement on whether ground-mounted systems should be screened. At that meeting, only three voting members of the council were present.
Monday, a full council voted on regulations that, among other things, do not require the ground systems to be screened.
Seven members of the audience, including residents and officials from the solar panel industry, spoke against previously proposed ordinances that they called too restrictive. Atop that list was a rule to screen the ground systems.
"Solar panels are no more ugly than my air conditioning unit, and we don't have to screen that," said resident Kimberly Poe. "Instead of saying we need restrictions, I would rather the town look at ways of being more energy efficient."
The majority of the council agreed. Councilman Mark Wise pointed to the roof panels, where there were no plans to screen them.
Monday's original proposal called for a resident wishing to install a ground system to plant screening shrubs at the property line if there is no wood privacy fence or screening hedge, or to obtain a written waiver from any adjacent neighbor who could see the system, otherwise the permit wouldn't be granted.
Mayor Pro Tem Jean Levenick said she didn't want a neighbor dictating what another neighbor could do on their property.
Councilman Steve Dixon voted against the motion, adding that he was in favor of the ordinance but wanted screening and for neighbors to work together.
"The unfortunate reality is that neighbors sometimes don't communicate," Dixon said. "Is Flower Mound anti-solar? Absolutely not. But we try to do things for the good of people so neighbors can enjoy their property as much as you and I do."
The approved regulations do not include a requirement to put solar panels in the same category of "accessory buildings," which have their own set of rules.
Among those are prohibiting the system from being more than 750 square feet or to take up more than 25 percent of the floor area. It also includes limiting a property to two accessory units.
The 3-foot setback from a fence requirement remained, however.
Other requirements for the ground systems include not being more than 8 feet high, and they can't be located in the front yard.
Requirements for roof systems include: the panels can't go above the roof's ridge line and must be parallel to the roof line; and setbacks from the edge of the roof must be controlled by the 2012 International Fire Code, which for now requires 3 feet.
The council's motion also removed the requirement for an engineer's seal in order to obtain a permit for a roof system. Council members said the amount of inspection that goes through the process would be sufficient.
Previous proposed requirements included restricting the roof panel from facing public streets, limiting the ground units to 5 feet in height and limiting the amount of energy generated from the solar panels. But those were removed at the last planning and zoning commission meeting.