Battle over solar panels heats up in West County

CLARKSON VALLEY, Mo. - The City of Clarkson Valley in west St. Louis County has a motto: "Less government is good government." But when Francis and James Babb wanted to install solar panels, city officials knew more government was needed.

You can't see the Babb's solar panels from their mailbox. In fact, you have to drive about 360 feet, past 4.5 acres of sycamore and oaks to finally see them.

Stephen Jeffery is the family attorney. He talked about the cost savings as a big reason the Babb's wanted to power their home with solar energy.

"Jim said in the summer their electric bill was $400. In August, it was $4," said Jeffery.

Jeffery explained, the lengthy court fight began in 2011 when the Babbs applied for a building permit to install the panels.

"That night, the board enacted a moratorium prohibiting any issuance of any building permit relating to solar panels in Clarkson Valley," said Jeffery.

That led to court fights. The first judge found the city's refusal "arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and showed an abuse of discretion."

"In the event the city fails to issue permits within one business day, the Babbs are authorized to construct the solar energy system," the judge said.

The Babbs installed, aldermen appealed, and the Babbs won again. The family filed contempt of court charges against the city, then on Tuesday, city officials agreed to issue the permits, but not before an inspection takes place.

While Ameren and St. Louis County inspectors signed off of the home, city officials say something else is needed.

"There has not been a building inspecting yet," said Clarkson Valley Alderman Dan King.

Reporter: "hen will that happen?"

"We are working on that with the property owner right now," said King.

Reporter: "Once you get that handled will you issue the permit?"

"I think it's under discussion right now. I can't really comment on it," said King.

Some in the neighborhood see the panels as an eyesore. That is why the city enacted rules and regulations.

King says the city is not anti-solar power. In fact, officials issued a permit for a new home currently under construction.

There are 100 panels at the Babb home, by comparison, Busch Stadium has 106.


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