Metro Councilman Bill Hollander helped dig a hole during a neighborhood tree planting in Butchertown. (Photo: Maggie Huber, Special to The C-J)
Louisville Metro Councilman Bill Hollander last summer featured those now-controversial solar panels on Mark Frazar's Clifton home, celebrating them as an inspiration of sustainability.
"Mark installed the panels for both environmental and financial reasons," reported the District 9 Democrat's June 25 newsletter. "One way he is benefitting is net metering. Pursuant to state law, if an LG&E customer generates more electricity than a home or business uses, the excess electricity can be fed through the customer’s meter and onto the electric grid and LG&E applies a credit toward future power needs."
It was on that same day – June 25, 2015 – that the city Department of Codes and Violations cited Frazar for installing both a new roof and solar panels without first securing a Certificate of Appropriateness, according to documents obtained under the Kentucky Open Records law. The case goes to a review board on April 13.
On Friday, Hollander took to Facebook recall that same newsletter and to offer a defense of solar power in historic districts like Clifton, where there are extra limits on what people can do with their properties.
The newsletter features a weekly "Sustainability Story," the councilman's Facebook post said, adding that it features "someone doing a good thing for the environment."
Hollander wrote that "historic preservation is important," then quoted Henry David Thoreau: "What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"
Friday's front page of the Courier-Journal featured the conflict in a story that began like this: A Louisville resident's rooftop solar installation has collided with one neighborhood's historic preservation requirements, setting what city officials described as a first-of-its-kind architectural design battle.
Frazar installed them without first getting permission, and city officials have wanted him to move them to the back of his house so they are not visible from the street. But there, they won't be as efficient because of the angle of the sun, extending the number of years for cost recovery, he argues.
The reaction I've seen on social media been mixed, but generally supportive of Frazar.
"Our city officials keep trying to act like we're some bastion of progress, but yet they keep sticking to antiquated policies and stale ideas. Get with it, Louisville," one woman commented on Facebook.
Others blamed Frazar for not following the rules.
Reporter James Bruggers writes this Watchdog Earth blog item. Reach him at (502) 582-4645 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.