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Sewickley solar-panel neighbor continues to question installation

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The brouhaha over solar panels on a home in a historic Sewickley neighborhood continues as Henry Avenue neighbors question the borough's guidelines for the power source.

Henry Avenue resident Christy Semple questioned the approval process and installation of solar panels on the roof of a home owned by Dorothy and Andrew Falk — who live two homes away from Semple. Several people were on hand last week at a council meeting to support Semple.

The Falks installed solar panels last month after receiving approval from the borough's historic review commission and council.

Semple said the borough's current procedure offered no notice to nearby residents.

“The review process is so abbreviated,” she said, adding that nearby neighbors had to go through a lengthy evaluation for projects on their homes. Properties within historic neighborhoods in Sewickley have more stringent policies than nonhistoric areas.

“Why was this not tabled to look at actual drawings and panels?”

Now, she and other neighbors have an unpleasant view, Semple said.

“This is a view we see all day, every day from our home,” she said. “We see it out our ... windows. We see from where we sit at our dining room table.”

Council President Bob Hague said the development of guidelines wouldn't have affected this application because the Falks' request was made before policy changes were considered.

Hague said he supports the addition of solar panels, but suggested policies would be needed to govern such additions.

But he cautioned against making rules too strict.

“What you end up running into is competing rights of homeowners,” he said.

Solar panels face an alleyway and neighboring homes. Some 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.

Manager Kevin Flannery said borough workers will re-examine the installation, making sure details of the contract were followed.

Council member Charlie Driscoll, who serves on the historic review commission, said the group has discussed solar panels and how they might be governed in the future. He added that the homeowners could have added more.

“The homeowner was fairly reasonable in not doing more,” he said.

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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