Solar panels cause flap between neighbors;
NEWPORT – When Becky Bush looks out the windows of the living room in the new home where she and husband Perry plan to retire, the dominant view is of her neighbor’s solar panels. If someone didn’t know better, they would think the panels were in her backyard, rather than her neighbor’s. But because of the properties’ irregular configuration, the land belongs to the neighbor.
The group of panels – totaling about 10 feet by 16 feet, and approximately 30 feet behind the Bush house – is ugly and spoils their scenic view, Becky Bush says.
She calls the solar-panel assembly particularly frustrating because in the neighborhood where they live, with homes valued at about $900,000 and up, atop Newport’s Wiedemann Hill, views were among the top selling points.
“I don’t know how you do this to somebody,” said Bush, who in June moved into the couple’s Watch Hill Lane home. “I just don’t.”
Bush and her neighbor aren’t typical property owners. Her husband is owner and president of Perry Bush Building Group, based in Mason, and she is vice president there. Her neighbor is Dan Neyer, president and sole owner of Neyer Properties Acquisitions. Neyer is the neighborhood’s developer.
“We want to retire here,” Becky Bush lamented this week. “This is our retirement home. And then we have to be neighbors with someone who would do that, for the rest of our life? My question is why.”
Sitting in her second-level kitchen, with a 180-degree panoramic view that extends from a water tower in South Newport all the way to the Interstate 471 Daniel Carter Beard Bridge with its golden arches, she paused.
“Want to know the kicker?” she asked. “We built his house.”
Neyer argued the solar panels don’t harm much of the couple’s view, because the most prime view is in another direction, of Downtown Cincinnati and Covington that glitter in the distance at night.
The solar panel system, “impacts their view of Vine Street (in Newport) – the homes on Vine Street,” Neyer said. “It does not impact their view in any way, shape or form of the city (of Cincinnati). As you know, most of the … values of the views are of the city.”
Why not install the panels behind his house?
“The only way it would function is to cut down all the trees,” Neyer explained. “It was placed there because that’s the only spot where it could collect the rays of the sun and function appropriately.
“If you have any shading it basically eliminates the entire functionality of the solar panel,” Neyer said. “We’ve offered different solutions but she unfortunately has decided to not even discuss different options.”
He also contends the plans for the Bush home they provided him “did not have the windows that … view the solar panel. “So honestly, without knowing how the house was going to be situated, I did what I thought was best, (which) is to put the panel where we were allowed and approved by building code to place the panels. You have to put them in a place that actually works, which would be a place where (they’re) facing south and collecting sun.”
Bush disagrees, saying her house was already framed before the installation happened.
The city originally rejected Neyer’s request to put the panels where they are. But Neyer later re-platted several properties together with his home’s plot and received Newport’s reluctant approval, City Manager Tom Fromme said. The city attempted to persuade Neyer to relocate them, Fromme said.
If Neyer lived in Bush’s house, would he be happy with the panels?
“I don’t know,” Neyer said. “I’m not going to comment on that.”
“My personal reaction?” Fromme said. “I don’t think I’d want that behind my house.”
Bush, who contends the panels violate the subdivision’s legal covenants, conditions and restrictions, assumes she may have to take Neyer to court to enforce them.
Neyer is proud of his house’s environmental-friendly construction. He says Perry Bush “thought it was a good idea at the time, and I think our home is probably the third or fourth LEED home done in the state of Kentucky.”
LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a globally recognized green building certification system.
Becky Bush said the couple never was comfortable with the idea of solar panels, and thought they would be on the ground.
“There is significant savings (on electricity),” Neyer said. “One, building a LEED home is doing the right thing.”
“I have offered to meet and offer different solutions,” Neyer said. “I have offered options for relocation. I’ve offered actually four different times we have established meetings to discuss this and other things and each time she has decided she did not want to meet and discuss it, which is unfortunate.”
“I have looked into providing a landscaped wall, if you will, which would provide year-round vegetation that screens it, among other things,” he said. “I basically have been waiting to discuss different options with her and Perry.”
He says the Bush home’s roof is 18 inches higher than he approved. She says it’s only 7 inches higher at a peak, because he approved 10 other inches in height.
Becky Bush says she postponed meetings because she believes other Neyer as the developer could have “held hostage” designs for other homes her company wants to build nearby.
Fromme hopes the neighbors can avoid a lawsuit.
“It seems that they’re both smart enough to resolve this somehow before they get to that,” Fromme said. “And that’s what I’d like to see done.”
By Mike Rutledge
The Kentucky Enquirer