Your HOA Can't Stop You From Installing Solar Panels - But it Can Stop the School District!

As regular followers of this blog are aware, Colorado homeowners associations cannot effectively prohibit the installation of renewable energy devices on individual homes and units, although they can impose reasonable restrictions on the devices.  Molly Foley-Healy addressed this matter in detail back in May.

Today, the Denver Post published a story about the Acres Green Homeowners’ Association and its fight against the Douglas County School District’s attempt to install solar panels on the ground near Acres Green Elementary.  The Association argued to the Douglas County Planning Commission that the solar panels would constitute a potentially dangerous eyesore, and the problem could not be effectively mitigated by screening the panels from view.  The School District could not install the panels on the school’s roof because, after contracting for this installation, it was determined the roof couldn’t support the project.

Not in your backyard? Hope your HOA agrees...

Colorado has an extremely strong public policy in favor of renewable energy devices, so the Association had to have an extremely strong case to get the Planning Commission to deny the School District’s application.  The School District won’t appeal, and indicated they should have solicited more neighborhood impact before beginning the project.

 This is an example of a homeowners association working on behalf of its residents.  Associations are allowed to act in litigation or administrative proceedings – like the Planning Commission matter – on behalf of themselves, or two or more members, on matters affecting the community.  It isn’t clear from the article whether the Association acted on its own behalf, or whether members brought the issue to the Board, but it highlights an interesting question – what should an Association do when owners are divided over the proper course of action in a potential litigation or administrative proceeding?

 With Colorado’s pro-renewable energy perspective, some owners may be upset that the Association fought the school’s solar panel installation.  Other owners could be upset that the District is attempting to spend any money at all on solar installation when there are other, more pressing concerns – such as a school roof that cannot even hold a solar array.  The Association took a position that some owners may object to.  When owners object to the actions taken by their Board of Directors, we always recommend they attend meetings and become more actively involved in the governance of their community. 

If dissent remains between factions on either side of an issue, or the dissent is particularly strong, the Association may consider stepping out of the dispute to allow those more involved in the matter to represent their own interests.  While the Association has the power to represent its owners in litigation or administrative proceedings, it is not obligated to, and sometimes it simply makes more sense to step back and let others fight over what is in their back yards.