Members of Bexley's Architectural Review Board on Nov. 9 approved an application that they say will serve as a test case for new legislation allowing residents to install solar panels on the front of their houses.

Ordinance 16-17, which Bexley City Council unanimously approved on Oct. 17, states the installation of solar panels is preferred on the rear and side of buildings. But the ordinance enables residents to install solar panels on front-roof facades "by providing an analysis of why the front facade is necessary in order to generate a viable output (of power)."

The ordinance gives the ARB discretion to evaluate applications seeking to install solar panels on the front of houses on a case-by-case basis, board member Andrew Rosenthal said.

"Solar panels are allowed on the front, visible from the public right-of-way," he said. "But the language suggests it needs to be considered in the larger context of the neighborhood, the context of the house, the design of the house, and that it's up to the Architectural Review Board to decide those things."

Council's October vote in favor of the legislation and the ARB Nov. 9 application approval, which was also unanimous, marked the conclusion of a nine-month journey for Roosevelt Avenue residents Paul and Karan Tanenbaum.

The Tanenbaums originally submitted an application to install solar panels on the front of their house at 222 S. Roosevelt Ave. to the ARB in February. Mr. Tanenbaum said he made several follow-up visits to speak with both ARB and city council members to explain why it made more sense to install solar panels at the front of his house, rather than the rear.

"It wouldn't generate enough power" if the panels were installed at the back of the house, Mr. Tanenbaum said.

To ensure the solar panels would be as unobtrusive as possible, Mr. Tanenbaum said he and his wife had their house repainted last summer from tan with brown trim to dark gray with black trim and replaced the tan roof with dark gray asphalt shingles.

"We're hoping to have the (solar) panels blend in with the roof," Mr. Tanenbaum said.

ARB members said they're curious to see how the Tanenbaums' solar panels fit with the rest of the neighborhood once they're installed in order to provide context for future cases.

"I'm willing to vote for this as a test case to see what people think of this. But I remain opposed, in general, to solar panels being on the front face of the house" because they can be unsightly, board member Larry Helman said.

"For future applicants on solar panels, we would want to see the section, cut details and possibly a sample," board member Bill Heyer said. "For future applicants, we would require that."

Mr. Tanenbaum said he plans to install the solar panels on his house before the end of the year.