Solar Ordinance jeopardizes individual rights of South Miami homeowners

Grant Miller, Publisher

Grant Miller, Publisher

Even though I believe in the clean and green benefits of solar energy, I do not believe the installation of solar devices should be a government-enforced mandate.

But that’s just what the South Miami City Commission will decide on July 12 when they vote on a ordinance that would require solar photovoltaic systems be installed on all newly constructed homes. Older homes would also be subjected to this requirement if more than 50 percent of its square footage is renovated.

Today, there is nothing preventing anyone from stepping up to install solar energy devices on the roof of their new or existing home. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. South Miami Mayor Stoddard and his solar co-op friends are ready to sell to homeowners solar panel systems at a discount. And, there are federal and state tax incentives for those who choose to install solar on a home or business – choose being the key word.

And while the cost of solar is decreasing, it still remains an out-of-reach luxury for many homeowners. Our county is facing an affordable-housing crisis and rising home prices are already shutting out many residents of South Miami. Hospitals, schools, and businesses will have a hard time attracting and retaining employees who will not be able to afford to live in the city where they work.

This isn’t about taking on the power company – and if you’ve read my columns in the past, you know I am not always a fan of Florida Power & Light. It’s about the individual rights of residents in South Miami.

Solar is an emotional choice, not an economic one. For Stoddard, solar is his personal crusade. But this ordinance crosses the line into forced conversion.

So no matter how much they claim the proposed ordinance would “benefit the health, safety, welfare, and resiliency of South Miami and its residents,” I say this proposed ordinance is simply an attempt to strip homeowners of their fundamental rights – and should not even be considered until all of our South Miami elected officials install solar on their own homes, homes they rent out, as well on all city buildings.

If you’d like to email me your thoughts, please do.

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8 Comments on "Solar Ordinance jeopardizes individual rights of South Miami homeowners"

  1. Jack Thompson | July 3, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Reply

    I totally agree with Mr. Miller. The great Nobel prize winner in economics, Milton Friedman, once noted: “If the government is paying for it or mandating it, then it is by definition economically infeasible.” Increasingly, Florida is becoming the nanny state at the local and state level. These liberal overseers need to to stop telling us what to do or move to New Zealand, where the government tells everybody what to do about everything.

  2. Rodrigo burgos | July 3, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Reply

    I believe Mr. Stoddard is a visionary and is leading in the right direction. I don’t believe anybody is against MANDATORY speed limits, or wearing a safety belt or having car insurance. So why not make`it mandatory to harness sun power instead of continuing to burn fossil fuels? It is for our own safety after all.

  3. “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Thomas Edison, 1931

  4. James McGhee II | July 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Reply

    I agree with Mr. Miller and Mr. Thompson. Installing solar panels should be a choice. Mandating their installation is, I feel, unfair to those who are unready or unwilling to buy into this technology. Our business CHOSE to install some solar panels, but I would have strongly objected to being MANDATED to do so. The South Miami government might as well mandate that all drivers residing in the city drive electric cars, or ban the sale of cigarettes and alcohol within the city, all in the name of health and safety. The limit to the mandates of government, however, is the awareness and action of the electorate. IF the active electorate encourages the Commission to vote for this, or if the voters stay silent, the inactive and unaware residents and voters will be subject to the will of what COULD be an actual MINORITY of the eligible voters. Certainly, such a mandate would drive up the cost of home ownership in South Miami, and make it even harder for those seeking affordable housing, to reside in South Miami. People like to talk about being environmentally aware, but few are willing to walk the walk… and meanwhile, too many are willing to IMPOSE their will on others.

  5. Sally Philips | July 6, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Reply

    To Grant Miller:

    You wrote that the South Miami Ordinance to require photo-voltaic systems on new homes and homes that are being more than 50% renovated was an infringement of a home owner’s individual freedom of choice: it is “an attempt to strip homeowners of their fundamental rights.” It seems to me that government often makes rules to safeguard citizens’ health. Such rules include traffic lights. Of course, we all have an option to ignore traffic lights – and sometimes we have to accept negative consequences of doing so (a ticket or an accident). In the case of requiring solar power panels, one immediate penalty for CHOOSING NOT to install them during the building or re-building process is a required contribution – much like the required contribution to the parking fund for hometown merchants who can not provide adequate parking at their places of business. A long-term penalty is that the homeowners’ (and OUR) environment is going to be that much more polluted. And that means, that portions of South Miami will be than much sooner under water.

    You wrote: “while the cost of solar is decreasing, it still remains an out-of-reach luxury for many homeowners.” Given the financing available from Ygrene and some banks, this is an inaccurate statement. Indeed, you do know that the added value that a solar system brings to a home is not going to be included in determining property taxes.

    You wrote that requiring new and renovated homes to install solar power ‘should not even be considered until all of our South Miami elected officials install solar on their own homes, homes they rent out, as well [as] on all city buildings.” It is my understanding that in order not to increase the City’s operating budget, going solar is not an immediate cost the Commission wants the taxpayers to undertake, and that any fees that get paid in lieu of installing solar systems will go toward placing photo-voltaic panels on South Miami government buildings.

    To my way of thinking, if a person can afford to build a new house or substantially rebuild an old house, than adding solar panels is not a great financial burden. Not with all the incentives – from the solar co-op, from the equipment manufacturers, from the IRS, from the long-term savings on the cost of electricity, from the added value to the house. And affordable housing would be that much more affordable to renters if their electrical costs were lower than average. Imagine someone in an affordable rental unit whose electrical bill was $9.41 a month!

    You wrote: “South Miami Mayor Stoddard and his solar co-op friends are ready to sell to homeowners solar panel systems at a discount.” I think it is a disservice to suggest that Phil Stoddard is selling solar systems and, thereby, benefiting from this ordinance [Article III, Section 20-3.6 “Supplemental Regulations” adding subsection (W) “Solar Requirements”]. Have you done diligent investigation that shows that Phil Stoddard is selling solar systems? Did you publish this opinion, because you are planning construction or major re-construction of a South Miami home for yourself and you would rather support FP&L’s continued reliance on dirty fuel than install solar panels or pay a penalty? Actually, what you wrote reminds me all too strongly of your brother’s sniping tactics and not the usual clean opinions you write.

  6. Sally Philips | July 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Reply

    Let me correct a minor grammatical error I didn’t see earlier: To my way of thinking, if a person can afford to build a new house or substantially rebuild an old house, then adding solar panels is not a great financial burden.” Thanks – Sally

  7. Nicole Martinez | July 9, 2017 at 10:14 pm | Reply

    Dear Ms. Philips: With all due respect, how is this ordinance safeguarding resident’s health? How can you even compare this mandate to traffic lights? You are making apples to oranges comparison. Your statements are not a fair representation of what this ordinance is intending to do.
    Let me also clarify that choosing not to install solar panels will not make South Miami or Miami-Dade County for that matter anymore polluted. Please tell me how you envision this happening? Or how it will be underwater? If you are talking about Sea Level Rise – the Office of Sustainability for most large cities are addressing these future issues. Not sure how solar panels play into this.
    When addressing the issue of cost, it doesn’t matter how much financing is out there, bottom line is the resident/property owner will need to pay for it in the end. The fact is that it’s an added cost for any family considering to build a house or renovate their existing home in South Miami. Result – they will choose to live somewhere else. Existing homes will be harder to sell because most buyers’ always want to do improvements to the homes they buy.
    The second comment you don’t really address, are all elected in South Miami installing solar panels in their home. Let’s start with them and then we can talk about solar on government buildings. Do you have solar in your home? It’s easy to back something up when it’s not costing you a penny. You need to have skin in the game.
    I love solar but mandating it is just not right. Maybe they rather pay more in their electric bill than install solar panels for thousands of dollars. At this time most South Miami residents don’t know what this cost will be for them.
    In conclusion, whether this is driven by Philip Stoddard and his co-op friends, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that this ordinance has not been thought out. You are imposing a mandate on your residents that will cost them additional money. if this is the desire of the commission, then they should relief those residents in other ways, i.e. No permit fees for the construction, waive parking fees, no fees for replacements of garbage containers, no fee for burglar alarms going off, no fees for lien searches, waive the local business tax, free fitness center, waive Park and Rec rental fees, etc. I can go on and on.
    I urge the commission to withdraw this ordnance and respect the rights of their residents. Let them choose what they want to do with regards to solar. You don’t need a mandate, if someone wants solar right now they can install it. Pick your battles guys!

  8. Sally Philips | July 12, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Reply

    Yes, Nicole, like the Mayor of South Miami, I have solar panels on the roof of my home. And most months I only pay $9.41 to FP&L. And I am thinking about getting some more panels so that I will be able to charge an electric car if I get one. Pollution is what is driving part of the warming of the earth. Pollution from burning coal, gasoline wood and oil. And that pollution in the earth’s atmosphere is speeding the warming and the melting and the sea level rise. Our health is, in part, affected by the pollution we breathe. I’m not comparing apples and oranges, I’m making an analogy. It’s too bad that you don’t see the parallels between requiring that people stop their cars so that others can move along, and requiring that people install solar panels so that others will have a longer and drier life.

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