Is Town and Country's Solar Panel Plan Too Tough on Homeowners?

Town and Country is considering putting a solar panel ordinance in place, but some are concerned the current plan makes the process to difficult for homeowners looking to go green.

As previously reported by Patch, the City of Town and Country is considering an ordinance that would put guidelines in place for residents who want to install solar energy systems.  

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The decison to do so stemmed from past issues of solar panel installation in Town and Country and the lack of a city ordinance pertaining to solar energy systems.

The is city "supportive of the systems" so the planning and zoning commission worked closely with Town and Country Planning Director Sharon Rothmel, to develop a proposed city ordinance to give residents some direction of what is permitted so they have guidelines to follow in the future.

"This community encourages the use of solar energy," Mayor Jon Dalton said at a recent board of aldermen meeting.

A public hearing was also held on the issue at that meeting.

"This bill is the outcome of a very lengthy series of deliberations," Rothmel explained.

Rothmel said the city wants to promote the use of solar energy systems in a reasonable manner that also protects residents.

The proposed plan would allow resident's to install two types of solar panels, roof mounted and ground, but the city prefers the roof mounted an will allow ground panels when a roof system is not an option for a homeowner. It also requires homeowners to get a conditional use permit to install the panels and that's where some residents and homeowners see a problem.

Former Town and Country Alderman Al Gerber spoke out against requiring the permit, along with  Town and Country resident Dirk Maas, who is a commissioner on Town and Country's Green Team.

"This ordinance is a step in the right direction. However, we can do a better job of encouraging solar energy by removing two hurdles that this ordinance puts in its way: the conditional use permit requirement, and restrictions on the panels' placement," Maas said. He said adding additional work and restrictions for homeowners hinders their efforts to go green.

Maas said requiring a conditional use permit creates a hurdle for homeowners. He also said he does not support the restriction that panels cannot be on the front of a roof of a house.

"I would like a streamlined easy route to solar energy that does not require a conditional use permit and does not put hurdles in the way," Mass said.

Clarkson Vally residents James and Frances Babb also addressed aldermen at he meeting. The Babb's had to take their fight to install solar panels to court and they won. They tell Patch that Clarkson Valley tried to impose a requirement on them to obtain a special use permit and then would not grant it to them, after they'd already been approved by the city to install the solar panels.

The Babbs filed a lawsuit and a judge ruled in their favor saying they had the right to install the panels.

"My wife and I had to sue to get the authority to install solar panels on our house," James Babb said. He also stated he thought the restrictions in his judgement seemed as if they would apply to Town and Country. "The judge ordered the city to issue me a building permit, and if they did not issue it, authorized me to build the system as if they had. The system is up and running today."

They asked Town and Country aldermen and the mayor to take the judgement in their case into consideration prior to putting an ordinance in place that requires a conditional use permit, so Town and Country doesn't deal with similar issues down the line.

"Lets try to make it fair and equitable to everyone," Frances Babb said.

The Babbs left a copy of their judgement for the mayor and aldermen to review.

However, the Babb's case may not change Town and Country's current proposed ordinance.

"If that opinion out of Jefferson City holds up on appeal, it's important to take note of, but it deals with a different set of facts than we see in Town and Country," Dalton tells Patch. Dalton points out the Bapps had already been approved to install their panels prior to the city implementing an ordinance requiring a special use permit.

Aldermen could vote on the city's proposed solar panel ordinance at the next board of aldermen meeting on Oct. 8. 


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