The city Zoning Hearing Board recently granted a variance that will allow Groundhog Solar LLC to create an outdoor “showroom” in downtown Juniata, in a central business zone — whose rules don’t address such use.

Company owner Richard Flarend intends to place ground-mounted solar displays on a vacant lot at the corner of North Fourth Avenue and North Eighth Street last occupied years ago by a Pal-Mino’s Pizza shop.

The displays will allow prospective customers to see a type of installation that is uncommon, prior to possibly committing to purchase, Flarend wrote in a memo that accompanied his variance application.

He got the idea from sections of concrete sidewalk on display at a masonry outlet in Carrolltown, he said.

The 100-by-100-foot lot is irregular in shape due to its being reduced by about 25 percent during a PennDOT widening project for the intersection in 2010. No curb cuts are permitted to connect with the adjoining streets, because of their heavy traffic, so the lot would be unsuitable for most types of business uses, Flarend said, arguing for the variance.

“It’s a creative way to make use of the lot,” he told the board.

The lot will work as a solar display location because there will be minimal traffic, and the two parking spaces he proposes would be accessed by an alley, he said.

The displays would be installed on gravel or grass or behind bushes to mimic the settings in which they’d be installed on customer properties, he said.

He plans to install a shed on the property for lawn maintenance equipment.

It wouldn’t be appropriate for his business to take potential customers to the homes of prior clients to see the systems he has installed in their yards, Flarend wrote in the memo, anticipating the potential for the board suggesting an alternative to developing the showroom.

The board agreed to a variance that will allow Flarend to set back all the installations beyond the 10-foot maximum setback in that downtown zone, so the arrays don’t interfere with drivers’ sightlines.

Flarend intends to install street trees and to extend the sidewalk.

Ground-mounted solar arrays are becoming more popular in Pennsylvania, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.



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