When Emily Meyers, a grandmother of 11, sought to put solar on the roof of her home at Four Seasons at Mapleton, an active adult community in the Burlington County, N.J., township of Mansfield, her application was turned down by the Architectural Control Committee of her homeowners’ association, despite the fact that solar was not covered by the association’s rules and regulations. The committee considered the solar panels to be unaesthetic.
But Emily and her neighbor, Myra Dickert, a grandmother of four, whose application for a solar system was also turned down, didn’t take the rejection—and the subsequent rejection of several appeals—sitting down. With the help of GeoGenix, their solar integrator, they finally persuaded their homeowners association to allow them to install solar, a battle that took six months and the threat of legal action. They then went on to petition the state legislature to make it illegal for homeowners’ associations to prohibit solar.
It’s the Law
The 2007 law, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, has now been imitated in many other states, and legislation is now under consideration in Congress to make it illegal across the nation for homeowners’ associations for planned communities, in which the land is commonly held, to outlaw solar. New Jersey’s solar access law, along with liberal state solar incentives, has helped to position it as second in the nation (after California) in solar capacity.
GeoGenix supports the enactment of such legislation, be it on the local, state or federal level. Under the legislation proposed in Congress—as well as the legislation already enacted in many states—homeowners' associations can set standards for how solar should be installed, but they cannot ban it outright, on aesthetic or any other grounds.
Indeed, the aesthetics argument is false to begin with. While some solar panels are not aesthetically appealing, most of the panels used for homes are barely noticeable, which is why observers only tend to take notice of those that don’t meet the usual standards. And when it comes to other aesthetic issues—panels that overhang the roofline, gaps between panels, conduits on the exterior of buildings, for example—these are more a matter of poor installation.