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The City Journals

ICYMI: West Valley City approves new sustainability zone

May 11, 2020 02:26PM ● By Travis Barton

Part of the requirements for homes in the residential sustainability zone will be using solar tiles instead of solar panels. (Pixabay)

By Travis Barton | [email protected] 

The West Valley City Council unanimously approved the creation of the residential sustainability zone. 

The zone is meant to encourage homes that “generate its own power, is highly energy efficient, conserves water and is long lasting,” according to city documents. 

Mayor Ron Bigelow said during a February council meeting the “concept is how can we build a better city” including some options “that provide energy sustainability and (other) similar things in our ordinances.”

City officials explained the new zone is not a requirement, but an option where developers would follow the standards in the zone in exchange for smaller lot sizes. 

Those standards for developers include items like water heaters with a specific energy rating, energy efficiency, landscaping that would reduce water usage, plumbing fixtures required to meet WaterSense standards, electric vehicle chargers in the garage and the quality of a Tesla solar roof or something similar. 

“We’re not imposing this on anybody or designating parts of the city for this zone,” said Councilman Steve Buhler during a February council meeting. “We’re looking at this as an opportunity for people who are very conscientious about these things.” 

Buhler felt the standards being required “are kind of the way things are leaning in the future and we want to be out in front of that.” 

Developer Ken Milne with Arcadia Builders told the City Council they felt the move was “very progressive” for the city and the county and that they’d like to be one of the first developers to utilize the zone. 

“We’re kind of excited,” Milne said. 

Danny Gutierrez told the council this could be an example for the entire state, but was concerned some of the standards would be too difficult to achieve—such as the Tesla solar roof quality requirement. 

Tesla solar roofs are tiles, essentially built to look like typical asphalt shingles of a roof. The tiles are more expensive than solar panels—which are built on top of an existing roof. The decision, Community and Economic Development Director Steve Pastorik said, was primarily based on aesthetic. 

Gutierrez said he feels tile roofs, a newer development, aren’t proven, especially in Utah weather. Building a community with Tesla solar roofing prices can’t be done at an effective price, he said. 

“The solar panel accomplishes the exact same thing,” Gutierrez said. 

Councilman Lars Nordfelt was open to allowing solar panels as an option, not wanting the ordinance to be too narrow. But other councilmembers felt they should hold higher standards. Councilwoman Karen Lang noted they already made concessions in other areas for the zone. 

Buhler said the ordinance may need changes, but it was important to “start somewhere.” 

One resident, Chris Bell, complimented the city for the steps it’s been taking toward sustainability like electric vehicle chargers and passing a resolution for net zero emissions. 

This “will help our residents, will help build up our city to be an example for the rest of the state for what we can do to provide for the future, our children’s future, our grandchildren’s future,” Bell said.