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Omaha veteran’s solar panels lead to legal dispute with developer

An Omaha resident and veteran, Jason Hetrick, finds himself nearing a legal dispute regarding his new 30-panel solar energy system.
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 3:55 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A neighborhood squabble over a homeowner’s backyard addition has caught the eye of an area developer and his attorney, sparking controversy over a bright idea.

A former Army combat engineer and disabled veteran, Jason Hetrick, hopes to defuse any neighborhood complaints about his new solar power system.

“There’s going to be trees and plants,” Hetrick said. “I’m going to put a garage over here, things like that, so that way it’s not noticeable from the road.”

The veteran says his 30-panel, $60,000, solar system feeds electricity to his home and will eventually save him around $200 a month by generating his own power.

But now the homeowner has received a letter that casts a shadow over the installation of his system and he may have to expend some financial energy in a legal fight.

A lawyer for the developer of Northern Hills warns the homeowner.

“It’s a violation of the covenants and the covenants don’t allow anything like that to a property first without having it approved by the architectural committee, which at the time would have been one person,” said the developer’s attorney, John Green. “He never brought any plans.”

However, Hetrick has a city permit for the solar panel system.

“Because the covenants say solar heating and cooling, and this is solar power, so two separate entities,” Hetrick said. “When I talked to Mr. Edquist, he said ‘You’re fine as long as the city approves it.’”

But the homeowner doesn’t have that in writing from developer Keith Edquist.

“Keith says no, he never approved it,” Green said.

And despite differences in interpretation of covenant wording, the developer’s attorney has a lawsuit ready.

“He should be getting that out of there to avoid damages,” Green said.

But Hetrick doesn’t want to.

“I’m not taking the solar down unless the court tells me I have to,” he said.

So it appears the solar panel covenant dispute could see the light of day in court.

The attorney tells 6 News that the developer will pay legal fees for a lawsuit seeking the removal of Hetrick’s solar panels.

However, he wants the Northern Hills Homeowners Association to sign off on it. But that’s another sticky situation as no homeowners have joined the HOA due to a dispute with the developer over street conditions.

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