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First United Methodist Church denied request to install solar panels

While the Wednesday vote to demolish the Salvation Army’s Ridge Street buildings in Charlottesville was unanimous, another vote taken at Wednesday’s Board of Architectural Review meeting was more divided.

The board voted 4-3 to deny the First United Methodist Church’s request to remove portions of its slate roof for the installation of solar panels.

The church, located on the corner of East Jefferson Street and First Street North, told the board that a donor was offering to make a substantial contribution toward the rooftop solar panels that would save the church about $11,000 per month in utility costs. However, installing the panels would require the removal of several thousand square feet of slate to make way for underlying asphalt roof tiles, the church said.

“The new roofing would not be seen,” architect William L. Owens told the board. “We don’t even think the panels themselves would be seen except from a distance.”

The church structure today is the third building the Methodist congregation of downtown Charlottesville has inhabited. The cornerstone for the present church was laid in 1924. The church’s congregation provided extensive services to counter-protesters during the fatal 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and many members are interested in environmental sustainability and arresting climate change, Owens said.

“We’re very disappointed,” Owens told The Daily Progress on Thursday, the day after the church’s request was denied. “We’re weighing our options and considering an appeal to City Council.”


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