Couple Sues Over St. Joe Solar Panels

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- What began with good intentions is heading to a courtroom.

Eighty-three-year-old Milton Boye and his 67-year-old wife, Mary Boyle, paid $14,500 for 84 solar panels that were installed in the front yard last May. But the city of St. Joseph, Mo., won't approve their electrical permit that would make the solar array operational.

Now the couple is suing the city for blocking their plans to use solar power.

"I think they're just behind times. I think they haven't caught up with what technology is," said Mary Boyle.

The Boyles say the city only got involved after a neighbor complained the solar panels were an eyesore that might lower surrounding property values.

Milton told FOX 4 he doesn't think solar panels hurt property values but adds, "It wouldn't make any difference if it paid my light bill, though."

City planner Dustin Smith says the city isn't opposed to alternative energy but insists the solar panels meet the city's definition of an accessory structure, much like a shed or carport.

"We don't want accessory structures in the front yards, especially in our residential neighborhoods, " said Smith.

He says the city's zoning board was willing to compromise if the Boyle's would move the solar panes back 200 feet. But the Boyles' say doing that would put the panels in shade under nearby trees.

"We'd have to take down a building, a carport and cut all of our trees," said Mary Boyle.

City Planner Dustin Smith doubts that telling FOX 4, " I've been out there several times at different times of the day.  The place that I suggested as part of the staff report appeared to be in full sun, every time I was out there."

The Boyle's disagree and their attorney Stephen Jeffrey wrote the city a letter insisting St. Joseph was in violation of Prop C, a renewable energy amendment passed by Missouri voters in 2008.

Jeffrey's letter states "In the Boyles' situation, because of the Public Service Commission requirement for their solar array to have at least an 85% exposure to the sun, the only configuration that meets that requirement is its current location."

The couple's lawsuit also contends solar array's are not an accessory structure as defined by city ordinance.

"We started out thinking we were doing a good thing, just kind of gotten ornery as it's gone on, " said Mary Boyle.

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