Solar panel applications cause BAR stir

 

The owner of the home at 209 Highview St., pictured, was recently approved to install solar panels on the roof. Village government is working on a change of code proposal to help almost any solar panel application get approved by the Board of Architectural Review. Photo/Ashley Helms

The owner of the home at 209 Highview St., pictured, was recently approved to install solar panels on the roof. Village government is working on a change of code proposal to help almost any solar panel application get approved by the Board of Architectural Review. Photo/Ashley Helms

By ASHLEY HELMS
In the Village of Mamaroneck, solar panels have been attracting more than just sunlight over the past few months. 

Village government has begun work on a change of code proposal after it received a letter in November from the Committee for the Environment—an advisory body that makes suggestions to the Board of Trustees—urging them to encourage solar panel usage by homeowners.

The committee’s letter states it was made aware that a resident’s application for solar panel instillation was recently rejected by the Board of Architectural Review due to the proposed location of the panels. The proposed panels would be mounted toward the front of the homeowner’s roof and the BAR decided the panels wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

By electrically connecting to a power source on a supporting structure, solar panels convert sunlight into reuseable energy. The panels are comprised of multiple individual panels in order to produce the most power.

According to Catherine Hiller, co-chair of the Committee for the Environment, the letter from the committee was inspired by a different letter it received on Oct. 2 from a solar panel company consultant.

Lee Streisfeld-Leitner, a consultant from Sunrise Solar Solutions, located in Briarcliff Manor, wrote to the Committee for the Environment stating that, just a day prior, he represented a client in front of the BAR who wanted to install solar panels on his roof.

While his client was approved, Leitner said the board members said they had recently rejected a solar panel application because the panels would be on the front of the roof; visible from the road.

“In the long term, I’m so-me–what dismayed that Mam-aroneck is, effectively, going to be blocking about half the solar that would otherwise be installed,” Leitner said.

Eight solar panel applications have been in front of the BAR since February. Two applications were rejected during an Aug. 19 meeting when the board decided the solar panels looked odd on the homeowner’s roof.

Dennis Cucinella, a member of the BAR, said a solar panel application was rejected on Third Street in the village because the panels were going to be propped up on the roof as opposed to laying flat.

In order to work with applicants to help move projects forward, Cucinella said the board will give advice on how to alter proposals to earn an approval.

“We’re not opposed to these things, except when they’re going to be ugly and obtrusive and the neighbors wont like it,” he said. “We don’t dislike solar panels; we’re in favor of them.”

According to village code, an application in front of the BAR can be rejected by a majority vote provided that “the board finds that the building or structure for which the permit was applied would, if erected, be so detrimental to the desirability, property value or development of the surrounding area as to provoke one or more of the harmful effects.”

Trustee Ilissa Miller, a De-mocrat, said the crux of the change of code proposal, which she said is quite far from being finished, is to include language in the code that would allow the BAR to be subjective about the aesthetics it thinks are best for the village, while also outlining that not all solar panels look exactly the same. According to Miller, the change of code will ideally help pave the way for almost any resident who wants to install the panels to be allowed to do so.

“The BAR decides if it looks good; that’s what their job is. If they don’t like the look of the panels, they’ll reject it,” Miller said. “To one person’s eyes, solar panels could be beautiful, but to another they might not be.”

Hiller said she thinks a change of code to allow for more solar panel leeway would be a positive move by village government and residents should be encouraged to use solar power.

“Writing legislation would be a good outcome,” she said. “Anyone could proceed with confidence with solar knowing they wouldn’t be rejected.”

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

 
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About Ashley Helms

Ashley Helms has been covering Eastchester and Tuckahoe for The Town Report since 2012 and has recently added Rye to her coverage area. Before joining Home Town Media Group, Ashley freelanced for the Daily Voice in Fairfield County, Conn., and was a social media intern at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. She graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and gender studies. She currently resides in the Bronx. Reach Ashley at 914-653-1000 x23 or ashley@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @townreport.