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Energy-conscious couple with solar panels upsets Sewickley neighbors

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Solar paneling on the home and garage of Dorothy and Andrew Falk's Henry Ave., Sewickley home seen through the bedroom window of a neighbor Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013.

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
 

Dorothy and Andrew Falk say they are surprised the addition of solar panels on their Henry Avenue, Sewickley, home has upset some neighbors.

“I'm sure these are wonderful folks, and I would hate to upset anybody,” Andrew Falk said.

Some of the Falks' neighbors are upset by the couple's decision to install solar panels on a portion of their roof and on their garage.

Sewickley Council approved the placement of solar panels in the historic neighborhood in August — days after the borough's Historic Review Commission approved them. Panels were installed earlier this month.

“They are unsightly,” neighbor Angela Robb said. “They're not pretty.”

Robb said the panels are visible from outside of her kitchen and bedroom windows.

“I'm not pleased with the way it looks,” she said.

There is no formal policy limiting the use of solar panels inside a historic district, borough Manager Kevin Flannery said.

Guidelines and requirements are listed for solar energy systems and related equipment, Flannery said. Based on borough ordinances, the homeowners have met all requirements, he said.

Solar panels face an alleyway and neighboring homes. Two panels could have been visible from Little Street, but were relocated, Dorothy Falk said.

“We're doing good things for the environment, so it's a surprise there would be any objection to it,” she said.

The Falks' home was built in the late 1800s, Dorothy Falk said.

Andrew Falk said the addition of solar panels is an “investment to improve the value of our house and to lower our electric bill.”

They say the panels create about 80 percent of what they consume with additional power going back into the grid.

Neighbor Christy Semple said she was upset that panels are visible from her yard and inside her dining room.

“It's unfortunate, and when decisions like this are made, there are many factors that are not always considered,” she said.

She said no one from the borough notified her or neighbors the panels would be installed.

“We would have said something to each other,” she said. “I know people say this is the wave of the future, but there are other things that can be done now.”

Council President Bob Hague said he wants to see more discussion about solar panels in the borough.

“I don't want to be in favor of banning them,” he said.

Council member Charlie Driscoll said the borough's Historic Review Commission, of which he is a member, is studying solar panels.

The Falks say it never was their intention to upset neighbors.

“I love the historic feel of the neighborhood,” Dorothy Falk said. “We'd never do anything to detract from that.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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