Judge rules for Clarkson Valley couple over solar panels

July 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

CLARKSON VALLEY • Jim and Frances Babb are free to put solar panels on their roof, and Clarkson Valley can’t stop them, a judge says.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled on June 29 that the city’s failure to issue the Babbs a special-use permit for their solar project was “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and an abuse of discretion.”

The decision could impact cities all over the state as they grapple with how to regulate the growing number of residents who want to use solar energy to power their homes.

The Babbs had been fighting since December about the project with Clarkson Valley city leaders, who maintained that solar panels didn’t adhere to the community’s aesthetics. In January, the city enacted an ordinance restricting the use of solar panels in reaction to the Babbs’ proposal.

In April, the Babbs sued the city, as well as the Missouri Public Service Commission. The suit was filed in Cole County because the state agency is situated there.

Green said state law gives “a legally protectable right to the Babbs to use solar energy at their property.” He also said the city’s ordinance conflicts with Missouri Public Service Commission regulations. Communities all over the St. Louis area have struggled with solar panels, as some residents complain they are unsightly. Some cities have prohibited placing panels on street-facing roofs. The Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association was also a plaintiff in the case. The organization’s president, Dane Glueck, has complained in the past about the lack of clear statewide standards regarding solar energy.

It’s uncertain to what extent Green’s ruling will affect other municipal ordinances, but the Babbs’ attorney, Stephen G. Jeffery of Clayton, said, “I think this definitely has potential statewide impact.”

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