A year after he began, Armond Piscopo is back where he started.
Despite a plea from Montgomery County Executive James P. Gleason, the Montgomery Village Foundation executive committee last week refused to reconsider Piscopo's request to install solar collectors on the front roof of his home in Montgomery Village.
The committee, which is comprised of members appointed by the developer, Kettler Brothers, Inc., and members elected by the community, had decided earlier to prohibit Piscopo from placing the collectors on the front of his home because they would not be esthetically pleasing."
Gleason, in his letter, epressed hope that "the foundation will find a manner in which the solar collectors could be installed in an efficient location and in a manner which considers important elements of system design and color harmony with respect to the rest of the house."
He urged reconsideration because "the county's energy conservation plan notes that solar energy units for domestic water heating can offer a significant energy saving potential."
Gleason wrote the letter after reading of Piscopo's problem in the newspaper.
The governing board's refusal to reconsider Piscopo's request, leaves him back where he was last Aug. 1 when he first applied for permission to install the collectors. He made his application to the Village architectural control board which regulates exterior changes to homes or property in the development of 20,000 residents near Gaithersburg.
Fifteen days after he filed his application, it was rejected.
Piscopo, an engineer, then started his year-long campaign which brought the matter to the Village board of appeals, where it was also rejected, and then to a full committee hearing by the Village Foundation where, on May 24 of this year, his request was denied by a vote of 4 to 3. Two members of the nine-member committee were not present at the May meeting.
Piscopo said he has tentatively decided to refile with the architectural control board. The new application will be either a more detailed version of the original or one which is slightly amended, he said.
He says he is agreeable to any solution ("hidden pipes, flat on the roof, any color they want"), but the crux of the matter is that the collectors must be placed on the front of his house.
"I have no constraints except one," he said. "It's got to be in the front of my house. It's not that I'm stubborn . . . that's where the sun is."
Piscopo has been approved for a federal grant to help finance his solar heating system, but if the collectors are not installed and approved by Dec. 15, Piscopo will lose the $400 grant. He said he has already received two extensions of the deadline an doesn't think he will be given another.
According to the covenants Piscopo signed when he moved to Montgomery Village 10 years ago, any changes to the exteriors of houses must first be approved by the architectural control board.
Although "some residents feel that it is nt 'esthetically pleasing' to look across the street at your neighbor's basketball hoop." Piscopo said, the board approves of the hoops but not solar collectors on the front of their houses.
A few residents in the development have received permission to install solar collectors, but they are all on the top of a flat roof, or on the back of the house.
Piscopo said the board's ruling means that many residents of the community cannot install solar collectors on their homes, if, as in his case, trees, the position of the house on its lot, or other factors make it necessary to do so on the front of the house.
"That's not fair an equal treatment under the convenants," Piscopo said. "This is the first time in ten years (the architectural control board has) legislated in a manner which is not fair and equal treatment to all the residents."
During the citizen participation period of the foundation committee meetin last week, Piscopo asked Raymond F. Carlin Jr., the president, if the committee had received the letter from Gleason. "We did," Carlin said.
Piscopo then asked Carlin if he could "solicit from the two memebers of the board who were not present at the May meeting" their opinions concerning his case. Carlin turned to Phyllis H. Bowman and Phil Raymond and asked them if they would care to comment on how they would have voted if they had been present at the meeting or how thy felt about the matter at this point.
"Not me," was uttered twice. That was the last of the Piscopo matter at the three and a half hour meeting, during which Piscopo, his chin resting on his right palm, numerous times told the person next to him, "They're just gonna stonewall it, they're just stone-walling it."
Only members of the majority, who voted against Piscopo's collectors, may call for a second vote on the issue. None of the four majority voters raised the issue despite Gleason's letter.
Carlin, one of the majority voters, said after the meeting: "We're already voted on the matter, made our decision and I don't think there was anything in Mr. Gleason's letter to make me change my mind."
Robert E. Greenburg, one of the minority voters, later said: "I'm powerless to bring it up again. I'm sorry they didn't, but I have to respect their decision. If they voted their conscience and feel they did the right thing then I have to agree with them . I don't agree with their decision, but accept it. That's the way the board works . . . I don't really think there's anything more to say.