Neighbors opposed to a planned solar project at Eagle Valley Middle School won their fight Thursday to have the array moved out of sight of their property lines.
"We have to move in the direction of the good neighbor policy," said Carson City Supervisor Karen Abowd.
She joined three other supervisors in voting to modify the Carson City Planning Commission's decision to allow the school district to erect 30,000 square feet of solar arrays on one of two sites on the middle school campus.
The proposal initially went before the planning commission on Dec. 1. After neighbors objected to the location in the southwest corner of the campus, commissioners directed school district officials to evaluate alternative locations.
Out of four that were presented, the planning commission approved two sites, known as Option A - the original location in the southwest corner - and Option C - in the center of the campus.
Neighbors Diane and Dean Altus appealed the decision, saying Option A would significantly decrease their property values.
"No amount of excavation or landscaping would lessen the visual blight of this two-acre project that would be placed in such intimate proximity to neighboring homes," they wrote in the appeal. "We believe Option C does meet all of the required findings for a special-use permit and would not pose an economic detriment to any surrounding properties."
However, Mark Korinek, operations manager for the school district, told supervisors that Option A was preferable to Option C, which would limit the school's ability to expand as intended with the school bond.
"After walking through and doing other studies, Option A still rose to the top for our (school) board," Korinek said.
After hearing comments from other neighbors as well, supervisors voted to approve only Option C. Supervisor John McKenna, a former school board member, was the sole dissenting vote, arguing that the discussion should have taken place in front of the school board instead.
The decision follows a Jan. 8 meeting where supervisors voted to uphold the approval of an array of the same size at Seeliger Elementary School after a neighbor there also appealed the planning commission's decision.
Korinek said officials will need to discuss Thursday's ruling with the Carson City School Board on Tuesday before deciding on a course of action.
"We'll have to re-evaluate," he said.
The structures 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.
The project at Carson Middle School that also was approved for a special-use permit at the Dec. 1 meeting was not 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.