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Solar panels aren’t that unattractive

Date: 1/30/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

Now, I’m just one of those lower middle class people who lives in an urban neighborhood smack dab in the middle of Springfield so obviously I have little understanding about suburban life — so please pardon the following remarks.

Reporter Chris Maza wrote about a proposed by-law that would greatly restrict where photovoltaic cells could be installed in East Longmeadow. Residents could put them on the roof of a house, but could not put them on their property.

Chris quoted Planning Director Robyn Macdonald explaining, “The reason is the [Planning] Board felt it needs to protect the residential districts. These panels are not pleasant to look at. If we included residential districts, your neighbor could fill their yard with panels. The board felt they needed to protect every residential property owner.”

“Not pleasant to look at” — that’s the reason to keep someone from generating electricity for themselves if they have a yard suitable enough for an installation of solar cells?

What about fencing? Shrubbery? Minding your own business?

It must be nice to live someplace where an issue of aesthetics trumps personal freedom and energy security. With all sorts of conservatives talking about various governments restricting the rights of citizens to live their lives as they see fit, I would think this by-law in waiting would be fairly offensive to them.

Frankly, I would have no problem if my neighbor decided to replace the two junk cars in his backyard with a mini-solar field. It would be good for the environment and he wouldn’t be able to put any more junk cars there.

With all of my trees lost in the tornado, sign me up for some as well. I’ll gladly take half of my backyard and put up solar cells.

I don’t know about you but I want energy independence. I don’t want to burn any more fossil fuel than I have to and I certainly don’t want to give some country that hates us my energy dollars. It’s the attitudes such as those displayed by this by-law that prohibit us from achieving that goal.


Doing this job in various forms over the years has provided me with some odd moments.

Years ago, I was sent by my editor at The Valley Advocate to cover the first day of a loop roller coaster at the old Riverside Amusement Park — now Six Flags New England.

When I got there, the coaster could only manage to propel its cars halfway around the loop meaning the riders would have been hanging upside down. Luckily, I didn’t have to get on it.

But to salvage the assignment and my paycheck for it, I decided to interview the actor who was hired to play Spiderman for the grand opening. He readily agreed to talk with me and told me his real name was “Peter Parker.”


In a low whisper, he told me that contractually when he was in the costume, he was indeed Spiderman.

What a disaster. I can’t remember what I wrote or what was printed after my editor tried his hand.

While covering Sen. Scott Brown eating a sandwich last week wasn’t a debacle of any sort, it was one of those odd assignments one has during the political season.

Making a stop at Milano’s in Springfield’s South End was sensible as it was another trip to the tornado zone for Brown, but giving the press about five minutes of his time was a bit ludicrous. With undoubtedly a real battle on his hands for reelection I hope he will spend some time with people speaking about his record and what he hopes to do in a full term.

The only question I was able to ask him was his choice of sandwich. He affably answered.

Now the oddest part of the assignment was the presence of CNN. Perhaps they were working on a larger piece on Brown and the race, but I noted that while the local press was cut off from Brown at a certain point, the CNN reporter was given additional access after the senator had finished his sandwich.

Oh, yes, the sandwich was prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and basil.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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