Southampton Town Board is moving “backwards” in its implementation of green energy codes according to councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst.
At a special meeting on Friday, September 12 at town hall, the Southampton Town Board adopted a resolution for a public hearing that offers amendments to the original green legislation which was sponsored by Throne-Holst and called for, among other things, the use of solar energy to heat pools and energy rating standards for all new construction and substantial renovations. Proposed amendments include changing the effective dates of the original legislation and exempting indoor pools from the solar heating mandate.
Â The new resolution also proposes to allow the chief building inspector the ability to downgrade the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) for houses where the site may not be compatible with renewable energy technologies. The proposed amendment also adds an administrative appeals process for homeowners who oppose the decisions of the building inspector.
Â The resolution will be presented at a public hearing on September 23 followed by the board’s vote.
Â The resolution, if adopted, will change the original legislation consisting of a four-tier approach for the HERS ratings to a three-tiered approach and change the highest HERS rating required from 95 to 90 effective October 1, 2008. The resolution calls for new homes up to 3,500 square feet to attain a HERS rating of 84 or higher. For homes between 3,501 and 4,500 square feet the requirement is a minimum HERS rating of 87 and for all new homes built over 4,501 square feet a minimum 90 HERS rating is required. By October 1, 2009, new dwellings over 6,500 square feet will be required to receive an energy star rating of 95.
Â Throne-Holst believes the town should not wait until 2009 to implement the 95 HERS rating. It’s this aspect of the legislation which has received the most criticism, but Throne-Holst maintains achievement of a 95 rating is “very do-able.” She sees no reason why larger homes couldn’t attain the 95 HERS rating now.
“We are putting this off for the wrong reasons,” argued Throne-Holst who feels that owners of larger homes have the means and ability to meet the higher threshold. “It’s giving away the store to the wrong people
The resolution also proposes that implementation of the legislation for substantial reconstruction of homes be postponed until October 1, 2009 at which time it will follow the HERS requirements based on the size of the home. According to the legislation, the definition of substantial reconstruction is “construction that includes the removal and replacement of the ceiling, interior finishes of a dwelling which expose the exterior framing, and more than 50 percent of any windows, exterior doors, or HVAC building system.”
For all new dwellings and substantial reconstruction, the resolution calls for a HERS certificate prior to the issuance of a building permit based on a review of the plans and specifications. Before the issuance of a certificate of occupancy (CO), the applicant must certify that the dwelling satisfies the HERS program requirements with performance and field testing verifications.
Â Supervisor Linda Kabot told members of the board and others in the room that she believes the amendments are in the best interest of the community.
“We are not watering down the original threshold, we are phasing it in,” she commented.
In a statement released by the supervisor’s office the amendments are being proposed “due to technical issues involved with implementation.” Despite her reservations with the amendments, Throne-Holst says she is not against holding a public hearing on the matter.
“It’s in the spirit of open government,” she said, “and it’s important to let other people into the legislation and I am all for being respectful for the parties.”
Â But she expressed concerns with what has happened in the past months regarding this legislation.
Â “I am disappointed with the direction that some of this has taken,” she said. “In the end we are watering it down.”
Â Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who proposed a resolution to change the effective dates of the legislation and who crafted the current resolution along with Kabot and councilman Chris Nuzzi, believes “the 95 HERS mandate may be asking too much and asking the homeowner to generate all of their own power.”
Â “We can continue to work with the industry,” she commented. “This postponement is in response to comments raised during the public comment portion and questions raised about the 95 HERS.”
Graboski added that a 90 HERS is a significant step and that the board is still conserving energy while being mindful of their goals.
Â “We are proceeding aggressively with the 84, 87, and 90 HERS rating, this gives the town board a chance to see how all this is operating, and gives us a chance to make refinements if we need to,” Graboski said.
Â If adopted, the new resolution could also move the mandate on solar heating for swimming pools to January 1, 2009 (previously it was slated to take effect October 1, 2008) to allow for further exploration of solar heating methods for pool businesses and incentives for this mandate.
Â “We are no longer the cutting edge board we thought we could be.” Throne-Holst commented on Friday. “We are a community unlike any other on this island because we have homes that tax our grid more than any other.”
Â Kabot responded, “I am very proud of this board. It is still cutting edge – we are still clearly progressive.” But she adds, “To grow a greener industry you should incentivize.”
“It has zero to do with the original intent of the law,” Throne-Holst said. “This is backwards as far as I’m concerned.”