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  • Writer's pictureTiana Starks

New Hampshire church hits zoning snag over solar panels

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. — In Trudy Mott-Smith’s opinion, solar panels are beautiful things. She’s proud of the array that will soon sprout up in front of her church on Pleasant Street. It’s a symbol of sustainability and a suggestion that others aspire to do the same, she said.

But as the project manager for the Unitarian Universalist Church’s bid to install two rows of 50 panels each in its front yard, Mott-Smith learned that not everyone shares in her belief.

The city’s zoning board members, in particular, approved her project only when the church agreed to shield the 5-foot-3-inch panels from the road using shrubbery.

“They thought it was ugly,” she said. “Their word for that is ‘not in keeping with the neighborhood.’ ”

So the panels will be installed – perhaps as soon as next month – and then they’ll be hidden behind junipers, rhododendrons and arborvitae.

“Where there used to be a church – which is familiar to everyone who uses Pleasant Street – there’s going to be a sudden wall of green. … We were not what you would call extremely happy” with the condition, she said.

And although her church received the approvals it needed, Mott-Smith said she’s not done thinking about Concord’s solar ordinance – or, rather, the lack thereof.

She hopes to take the positive references to renewable energy in the city’s master plan and put them into practice with policies that make life easier for residents who want to install ground-mounted solar arrays.

Learning that there seemed to be no such effort formally underway, the 81-year-old Mott-Smith said: “When I get done, there will be someone working on it.”

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