The school district will move forward with plans to construct an array of solar panels behind Seeliger Elementary School despite an appeal Thursday to city supervisors to halt the process.
After Carson City Planning Commissioners approved the special-use permit on Dec. 1, Paul Eastwood appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.
He contended the panels, which would be spread out over 60,000 square feet in an empty field behind his house, would decrease property values, damage a natural habitat and pose a safety risk to children who play there.
"I find it unfortunate the school district didn't contact neighbors in this area (during the planning phase)," he told supervisors Thursday. "We probably could have eliminated this right now if we had been notified earlier."
He said neighbors could have helped come up with alternate sites that would have worked better.
However, Mark Korinek, operations manager for the school district, told supervisors that the site was chosen after 10 months of analysis that eliminated other options.
"It would have added significantly to the cost of the project," he said.
He also noted that the height of the structures were lowered from 8 feet to 6 feet and the setbacks from homes was adjusted from 20 feet to 90, to accommodate neighbors' concerns.
A handful of neighbors joined Eastwood in protesting the proposed site for the solar arrays, but supervisors determined they had little choice but to uphold the planning commission's earlier decision.
"I'm not certain we've heard a way to deny the applicant given the statutes of the state," said Mayor Bob Crowell.
Nevada law dictates that an alternative energy proposal cannot be denied unless there is an alternative system with comparable efficiency at a comparable price, explained Senior Deputy District Attorney Joel Benton.
"As a city, we're a creature of the state. We are frequently dismayed at what is done at the legislative level. This is one example of this," said Supervisor Shelly Aldean. "I don't know that we have a lot of latitude and discretion at this time, which is regrettable."
Korinek said the school has received a $17,000 grant to build interpretive, natural habitat to enhance the area and disguise the array. A network of trails will be built around the display and through the surrounding property and could be used as an outdoor classroom, incorporating alternative energy into the instruction.
Supervisor Molly Walt said she hoped neighbors could see the benefit.
"I would hope we can look at this and see what we can gain from this project," she said.
The structures at Seeliger are part of a districtwide project to construct 195,000 square feet of solar arrays at five schools.
The nearly $11 million installation cost will be reduced to $975,000 after rebates from the power company, said Tony Turley, finance director for the Carson City School District.
He said a conservative estimate is that the school district would save $400,000 in energy costs annually.
In order to claim the rebate, however, the project must be completed by July 20.
Commissioners also approved a special-use permit for a solar array of the same size at Eagle Valley Middle School, which also has been appealed.
The date to hear that appeal has not yet been set.
The project at Carson Middle School that also was approved for a special-use permit at the Dec. 1 meeting has not been appealed.
There are also plans for the photovoltaic structures at Carson High School and Fritsch Elementary School, however a special-use permit is not required for those.