Protecting the fabric of Eastchester and setting the proper precedent for future solar panel applications were concerns raised by the Eastchester Planning Board Thursday night, as they listened to statements from Nature’s Cradle Nursery and Landscape’s Patrick Gasparro, who is hoping to install the eco-friendly plates on his property at 55 Mill Road.
Much of the discussion at Thursday’s meeting centered around the panels’ visibility from the nearby street, and how Gasparro could go about shielding them from public view. It appears that the Gasparro and the Board are close to reaching some kind of agreement after Thursday, as Board members seemed generally satisfied with how Gasparro addressed each concern raised.
“We’re very close to being approved as long as we show the panels will be properly screened,” Gasparro said Friday. “We have to put a line of arbors, evergreen trees, in front of the panels so they can’t be seen from Mill Road.”
Another point of discussion was what kind of precedent Gasparro’s project would set for future similar applications, a point raised by Board member Robert Pulaski who added that the solar panels “will be an improvement and new for Eastchester.”
After his initial application to install the solar panels was not approved in March of this year, Gasparro met with architect Harry W. Kraus and President of SunBlue Energy Christopher D. Hale – who designs and installs Solar Energy Systems – to retouch his plans.
Eastchester Director of Building and Planning Margaret Uhle previously asked the architect to provide a cross-sectional diagram showing the relationship of the two houses that stand back-to-back with the nursery, although Gasparro at the time said that the two families in question have given their “okay” for the solar panels as long as big trees are put up to shield them from view.
Gasparro faced questions of a different and more broad scope on Thursday, many relating to whether or not the panels would be visible from the street.
“How much can you really see?” asked Board member Philip Nemeck. “The slowest months for Christmas trees are February and March; what will I see from the street after March?”
While Board member Joseph Cermele said that the Board needed to know the details regarding the panels’ structure first, Uhle replied that the project could have already been presented to the Architectural Review Board, however she added there will most likely not be much leeway regarding the structure of the panels.
Once the floor was opened to public comment, a number of local residents and community leaders spoke in support of Gasparro and his application, including Eastchester Environmental Committee (EEC) member Adam Kozak.
“I’d like to see all homes with solar panels and would have a lot of respect for homes with solar panels,” he said.
Eastchester resident Lynne Richy also spoke in favor of Gasparro Thursday, asking the Board why it was hindering him and not helping him.
“He’s spending his time and money on this, and you should be applauding him and finding ways to help him,” Richy said. “You’re pushing people away.”
Although Bronxville’s Board of Trustees passed a renewable energy law in September 2010, no resident has utilized it yet.
“I believe that solar panels are beautiful and add tremendously to the aesthetics of our townscape,” said EEC Chair Peter McCartt, who would like to see them installed on all of the town’s municipal buildings. “As a guest I would be most impressed if I saw them around town, and putting them up will save the residents of our town a lot of money.”
Pulaski, who considers this particular application learning experience, says he is looking forward to getting more feedback from the community regarding the solar panels.
“There will be a range of public opinions, some will like it, some won’t,” he said. “We’re trying to create middle ground. When we open this up to public opinion we’ll learn from the community.”