Avon candidate Tom Ruemmler’s solar project will find him in front of the council he hopes to join | VailDaily.com

Avon candidate Tom Ruemmler’s solar project will find him in front of the council he hopes to join

AVON — If Tom Ruemmler's run for council is successful, he'll probably have to recuse himself from any further discussion on this project.

The longtime valley resident and licensed contractor has a history of success with solar projects dating back to the 1970s, but he's currently having some trouble with a proposal for his property in Avon's Wildridge neighborhood.

Ruemmler was recently before the town's planning commission, which recommended the town council deny his application to put a solar array above a storage area on his property.

"The application proposes a design that largely deviates from the character of the surrounding community," town staff wrote in response to the application. "The houses in the Beaver Creek Point PUD neighborhood have gabled roof forms, open decks and unobtrusive vertical elements. The solar element of this design does not relate to that character."

The Beaver Creek Point homeowner's association also denied the project in addition to the town's planning commission.

"This project was turned down by all four HOA members due to architectural concerns," said association board president Hugh Joyce.

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The minutes from that meeting state that Joyce felt Ruemmler's structure "was not in concert with the surrounding architecture despite the fact that the deck over a garage concept and similar materials to the existing homes were used."

The report from town staff said the proposed shed and deck were compatible with the area.

"Staff is not concerned about the prominence of the shed and deck, which are similar in design to those on neighboring houses," the report read.

LEGAL TO DENY?

In a letter supporting Ruemmler's project, independent solar consultant Cristian Basso referenced laws designed to prevent boards from denying solar systems based on aesthetic opinions.

Colorado Revised Statutes 38-30-168 says "A covenant, restriction, or condition contained in any deed, contract, security instrument, or other instrument affecting the transfer or sale of, or any interest in, real property that effectively prohibits or restricts the installation or use of a renewable energy generation device is void and unenforceable."

Translation: Homeowner associations are not allowed to prohibit the installation of solar panels on a property.

"It appears from staff's report that the main objection is an opinion on the solar array's appearance," Basso wrote.

Ruemmler says his main goal in the project is to do his part to combat climate change by generating enough energy to power his electric vehicle, a Nissan Leaf.

The effort is part of his goal to have "One of the lowest carbon footprints in the United States," he said.

While the only person to reference solar energy at the recent Avon council candidate forum was Ruemmler himself, in reference to his project, environmental sustainability was a topic that did receive discussion among the candidates.

Council member Sarah Smith Hymes, who is running for re-election and will hear Ruemmler's case on Tuesday, Oct. 9, said climate change has presented "a new reality" in Avon.

"When you look at our shorter winters, our fewer ski days, the state of the streamflows, we have got to prepare for a different future in Avon," she said.

The Avon Council meeting is scheduled to start at 5:05 p.m. in the council chambers on Lake Street. The public is welcome to attend.