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Solar panel debate heats up in Ballston

Vote likely next week on legislation that would limit use of freestanding arrays

Ballston resident Terri Robben spoke out against the town’s proposed legislation concerning residential solar installations. Board member Bill Goslin, seated in the background, listened intently to a number of residents as they voiced their opinions about a possible moratorium on freestanding installations.

Ballston resident Terri Robben spoke out against the town’s proposed legislation concerning residential solar installations. Board member Bill Goslin, seated in the background, listened intently to a number of residents as they voiced their opinions about a possible moratorium on freestanding installations. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

— A running debate on solar panels in the Town of Ballston caught a few rays of public opinion Tuesday, July 31, when the Town Board held a public hearing on a local law that would put limits on freestanding solar panel arrays.

About 50 people were in attendance at the meeting. Town Supervisor Patti Southworth said the board has heard a lot of concerns from residents and that Tuesday’s hearing was the third time the matter has been open for public comment. In all, eight residents took the opportunity to voice their thoughts.

The subject has been discussed for several months after a group of residents filed a lawsuit in late March against Brian and Christa Haines. The Haines’ had a freestanding solar system installed at their home on Long Creek Drive in the Seelye Estates West housing development, and neighbors said the installation had adversely affected property values.

The proposed legislation would impose a height restriction of 10 feet to solar panels mounted on poles. They would also not be allowed in a front yard. Under the existing rules, such arrays are considered accessory structures and can be erected with a building permit. Solar panels mounted on roofs would still be allowed under the new legislation.

Of the residents who spoke at the meeting, many said the town should not impair the progress of renewable energies.

“Do you really see the big picture … the overregulation … do you see what you’re trying to do for a few votes for a few people?” asked resident Richard Voehringer, who said he is having a solar system installed at his home.

Resident Peter Toole then stepped up and asked how many folks in the audience were getting energy from solar. A scattered few hands went up in response.

“What message are you sending to our kids? …We should prioritize here,” he said.

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