Solar home raises ire of residents

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SCARBOROUGH (AP) – A Scarborough man who’s subject of complaints over solar panels he installed in his front yard says “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Laurence Gardner and his wife, Alison Noiles, installed the photovoltaic panels atop 10-foot-tall metal poles to reduce their “carbon footprint.” But residents went to a Town Council meeting last week to complain that the panels are an eyesore.

One nearby resident, Walter Laqualia, said a real estate agent told him the solar panels could reduce his property value by as much as 50 percent. Several residents say they plan to research whether the structures violate the neighborhood’s covenant.

“It’s just unbelievable that something like this could be constructed in such a beautiful neighborhood,” said Laqualia, whose house looks across the lake at the Gardners’ solar panels.

Laqualia hopes councilors will put a moratorium on solar and wind-power projects until they create an ordinance to protect neighbors.

But even if the Town Council decides to enact some sort of ordinance regulating alternative power construction for homes, it would not affect the panels on Grondin Pond retroactively, Town Manager Ron Owens said.

Gardner said the $98,000 system will help with his electricity bill as well as help the environment. He doesn’t understand what the fuss is about.

“It’s beyond our understanding how anyone would object to a solar-panel house in 2007,” Gardner said. “Someone called the panels a ‘monstrosity.’ But my family and I, we think they’re beautiful. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Owens said he knew the permit request would be controversial, especially after it was approved June 11.

“There’s always this pull and tug between technology and what technology looks like when you employ it,” Owens said. “It’s just like when people first started putting up satellite dishes on their homes and yards.”

AP-ES-07-24-07 1349EDT

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