Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Battle over Solar Energy Heats Up in the Suburbs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Battle over Solar Energy Heats Up in the Suburbs

Article excerpt

CLARKSON VALLEY * The fuss over the solar panels remains baffling to Jim and Frances Babb.

Their home sits 360 feet from the street and is surrounded by sycamore, oak and Bradford pear trees. In the summer, you can hardly see it from the curb.

Nevertheless, for the past two years, the couple's Victorian Queen Anne-style home has been a flash point in the battle over solar energy in St. Louis' suburbs.

The saga is scheduled to resume on Tuesday when the Babbs ask a Cole County judge to hold Clarkson Valley in contempt of court for failing to issue them permits for 100 solar panels on their property.

The Babbs want the city fined $1,000 for each day it fails to issue the permits.

In June, 2012, Circuit Judge Daniel Green ordered the city to issue the Babbs a building and special use permit so they could build their solar project, calling the city's actions "arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and an abuse of discretion." The suit was heard in Cole County because the Missouri Public Service Commission, another defendant, is situated there.

If Clarkson Valley failed to issue the permits, Green wrote, the Babbs could begin construction anyway, and that's what the couple did.

The city, meanwhile, appealed Green's order, only to be rebuffed by a three-judge panel at the Missouri Court of Appeals, which in November, unanimously affirmed Green's decision.

But the city still didn't issue permits. Instead, Clarkson Valley sent the couple a letter in January, requesting they fill out a new permit application, as required by a recent city ordinance that regulates solar energy, according to a motion filed by the Babbs' lawyer.

A few weeks a later, the city revised its position, and in another letter said the Babbs only needed to schedule a city inspection of their project.

Clarkson Valley Mayor Scott Douglass said the city wants to ensure the project is safe and meets fire codes.

"We read the appeals court decision, which says they can keep their panels but have to go by the local building code," Douglass said. "We are not against solar panels."

But the Babbs' lawyer, Stephen G. Jeffery, said the project has already been inspected by St. …

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