Since a major restructuring in July, the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review has repeatedly voiced its intention to focus more on the historic preservation portion of its name. To that end, on more than one occasion the board has scolded applicants who have not shared its commitment to preserving as much of the historic fabric of the houses they are renovating.
But sometimes, the board’s allegiance to the federal guidelines it says it is pledged to uphold seems more than a little inflexible. That was the case last week when board members gave a lukewarm reception to proposals to install solar panels on two houses in the historic district, one on Garden Street and the other on Howard Street. The problem, the board told the applicant, is those federal guidelines say solar panels should not be visible from either the street or a neighboring property.
In the board’s defense, neither application included architectural elevations, which would have provided it with a clearer picture of the visual impact of the solar panels and at least in one case, given the location of the house, it is hard to imagine them not having some impact.
But in situations in which solar panels are proposed for a back roof or on a pool house or garage and are only visible in passing, it seems the board could relax a bit. It would never question someone’s right to build a single-car garage behind a colonial house even though cars were nowhere to be found in 1800, so why throw up unnecessary hurdles when someone is trying to something that will actually reduce their carbon footprint?