Richards noted that the HOA had already given Squyres permission to install 45 panels on the rear roof and 13 panels on the side of his house. The dispute focused on whether Squyres had followed proper procedures before installing additional panels on his front roof and in his back yard. In the settlement, Squyres gets to keep 102 solar panels on his roof and 32 in his yard. He agreed not to apply for any more of the devices that convert sunlight into electricity.
Flower Mound resident Jay Squyres and his wife, Misty, have settled a lawsuit with their homeowners association over their solar panels.
Flower Mound resident Jay Squyres is passionate about going green.
He’s a proud owner of one of the first Tesla electric vehicles in the Dallas area. The car has “NO OPEC” emblazoned on the license plate.
But his strong — some might say extreme — commitment to solar energy has put him at odds with his homeowners association. It’s also prompted some officials to consider whether new regulations are needed to govern solar panels in residential areas.
Squyres is unapologetic about his quest to wean himself from fossil fuels.
“The state law says we can put [solar panels] on roofs and yards and they can’t stop them,” said the 44-year-old businessman, who was sued last year by the Wellington of Flower Mound Residential Association.
A mediated settlement was recently reached in the case. But the dispute highlights the difficulty of balancing the rights of individuals and the larger community.
“We were never saying ‘no panels,’” said attorney James Richards, who represented the Wellington association. “We wanted to do what was in the best interest of all residents.”
Richards noted that the HOA had already given Squyres permission to install 45 panels on the rear roof and 13 panels on the side of his house.
The dispute focused on whether Squyres had followed proper procedures before installing additional panels on his front roof and in his back yard.
In the settlement, Squyres gets to keep 102 solar panels on his roof and 32 in his yard. He agreed not to apply for any more of the devices that convert sunlight into electricity.
Squyres said his array of more than 130 solar panels is needed to create a net-zero home and feels such efforts to embrace green technology should be supported, not opposed.
“I think I’m an early adopter,” he said. “I don’t consider myself extreme.”
In 2011, Texas lawmakers approved legislation that prevented homeowners associations from banning or restricting solar energy devices on roofs and in fenced yards.
But property owners must seek approval from their homeowners associations, which are required to approve the applications unless the devices “cause unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities.”
That language has proved to be a sticking point for some Texas homeowners trying to go solar, said Kaiba White, policy and outreach specialist for Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group with an office in Austin.
“Unfortunately, the law, as it stands now, is a little vague,” White said. She said most homeowners associations have complied with the law and added environmentally friendly language to their covenants.
However, “ordinary sensibilities” is open to interpretation and can be used as grounds to deny a homeowner’s request, even if only one neighbor objects, she said.
That language was cited by the Wellington HOA in documents filed in its lawsuit against Squyres over the solar panels that were visible to neighbors and passers-by.
“While the Association supports environmentally friendly initiatives, it must also consider and balance the use and enjoyment of land of all owners within our community,” the HOA said in a letter to Squyres.
The HOA also asserted that his extensive array of solar devices was generating more power than he needed for his home and the excess created a prohibited commercial use.
Squyres denies creating a solar energy plant at his home.
He admits it takes a lot of energy to power his two-story home and electric vehicles, but said he wouldn’t be allowed to generate more power than he consumes.
“You have to submit your bills to Oncor,” he said. “You have to prove that you’re using and that’s what they’ll pay.”
While Squyres’ fight with his HOA has been settled, the lengthy dispute has not gone unnoticed.
Flower Mound Town Council member Steve Dixon, who lives in the Wellington subdivision, has asked the town staff to look into regulations for solar panels.
While state law allows such devices in yards, he believes lawmakers didn’t take into consideration neighborhoods like Wellington with open, steel or wrought iron fences instead of wooden privacy fencing.
“If I were one of his neighbors, I would be hot,” said Dixon, referring to a bank of panels in Squyres’ backyard.
Squyres said he will plant vegetation to obscure the panels.
After being contacted by Wellington representatives, Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, introduced legislation that would have prohibited solar panels from being visible from the street, covering more than 50 percent of the roof and generating excess electricity.
The bill, modified after objections from advocacy groups, died in committee.
But the modified version ended up drawing praise for addressing what some see as a flaw in the current law.
The bill would have required HOAs to survey nearby neighbors to determine whether solar panels would mar their enjoyment of the land. A majority would prevail.
White, of Public Citizen, liked the fact that it would draw opinions from a larger pool of residents. “In the current law, you could have one neighbor hold it up,” she said.