Tucson solar project leaves neighbor in the dark
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Mar. 22, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The saying goes "not in my backyard," but in the case of one Tucson couple, they didn't know a construction project was coming until it was being built and there was little time to protest.
That project was an unpleasant surprise for Shirley Dail and her husband. “When we were out of town and came home, they had the girders up already,” she told 9 On Your Side. “That's when I started complaining.”
Dail's neighbor, Temple Emanu-El on Country Club Road, started construction on two large solar panel arrays covering its parking lot.
“Everything changed when they put the panels on,” Shirley said. “Now it's really beginning to look hideous, but you can't see out the windows anymore.” The new view from every room in her home facing south is the underside of the arrays. Dail used to see the temple and sky.
Reporter Kevin Keen asked Shirley, “Would you just like to have been notified?” She answered, “It would have been nice to notify us, but I think that there could have been modifications to that. I think they could have made it flat.”
Kevin Koch of Technicians for Sustainability, involved with the project, says the panels are angled to optimize sunlight collection and at a height accommodating for cars. Koch says the high-efficiency arrays will meet 90 percent of the temple’s annual energy use.
As for notifying neighbors before construction, the city planning and development department told 9 On Your Side that wasn't required for this type of project.
Koch said it's likely no one thought to do it. “I don't think that there was an ethical problem with the way that the project was completed, that's my take on it,” Koch said. “Could it have been done better? Yeah, it would have been nice to have thought of notifying them.” Koch pointed out the property is zoned commerical.
Temple leaders share the concern. “I'm certainly sorry if anybody was offended by it,” Rabbi Samuel Cohon told 9 On Your Side over the phone. “We certainly strive to be excellent neighbors and have been since we've been here.”
“I think some people are sometimes surprised by the new,” the rabbi explained. “Solar energy production has been very limited up till now.”
Dail hadn't shared her concerns with Cohon.
Now, the Dails want changes in the city. “They need to look into these codes. Get them changed,” Dail said. “Give the neighbors the courtesy of at least a phone call, a letter or something.” Keen asked: “Is it too late?” “I think so. They're not going to tear it down,” she replied.
Several other neighbors tell 9 On Your Side they don't mind the solar panels. “I think they're a good thing,” Lance Robles said. “Green energy, saving some money and they provide nice, covered parking for the parking lot, too. I don't have a problem with them.” But Robles said he is not as close to the panels as the Dails are and his views aren't blocked now.