Neighborhood associations share the sunny news with Sarasota residents

By Heaven Campbell on November 2, 2018
A new round of the solar energy co-op in Sarasota County was announced May 23, 2018, by Solar United Neighbors of Florida, the City of Sarasota, and multiple other partners in front of the solar energy array at Mote Marine Laboratory’s research campus on City Island, Sarasota. Mote hosted the partners’ announcment to help spread the word about local opportunities for adopting sustainable practices. Photo by Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory.

Too often, homeowner associations are seen as barriers to solar. Outdated rules have made going solar more difficult than it needs to be for aspiring solar homeowners. But several homeowner associations in Sarasota County are bucking this trend. They’ve been at the forefront of helping their communities go solar.

An over-arching organization, the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations was a local partner and promoted the Sarasota Solar Co-op while making important connections to local neighborhoods. The Hudson Bayou Neighborhood Association is one such neighborhood group. Hudson Bayou is marked by lush trees, unique architecture of older homes and new builds, as well as by native birds.

“Our association is voluntary and therefore has a great deal of flexibility in deciding which issues and initiatives to pursue,” said President Rob Patten. “Our Board felt highlighting your organization was the right thing to do so that those interested in solar could save money and network with other people with similar interests.” The association sent out routine notices and included the open co-op in their newsletter. This encouraged several Hudson Bayou residents to take advantage of the savings offered by the co-op.

The Arlington Park Neighborhood Association is situated right outside of downtown Sarasota. One of the largest neighborhoods in the city limits, Arlington Park encompasses more than 1,400 homes and at least 3,000 community members. An eclectic mix of new and historic homes, Arlington Park has just added, “a sustainable community,” to their new welcome sign. Their focus on engaging the community in sustainable living is anything but new. “It’s the people inside that move a community forward,” said Mary Anne Bowie, president of the neighborhood association. Bowie is a self-declared sustainability advocate since 1991. She credits core board members and the past president in adding to their positive momentum to promote sustainability and renewable energy.

When the second Sarasota Solar Co-op launched, board members and community residents alike joined the co-op to learn about, and maybe go solar, together. Arlington Park not only shared information on the open co-op, but also hosted a presentation on the co-op for everyone to learn about the opportunity together. The co-op educated 400 Sarasota residents and has already led to 24 homeowners going solar, with more to come!

In addition to sharing the co-op, the community promotes Florida-Friendly Landscaping (working with local Master Gardeners), and even boasts a community shared compost maintained by 48 volunteers. Since 2016, the community has successfully achieved a moratorium on the use of glyphosate in their park.

“We are located inside the city limits and are one of the largest neighborhoods in the city,” Bowie said. “We want to be an example to all city neighborhoods, that considering the future as we operate in the present is very important for all of our neighborhoods. We want to set a positive example for the city, the county and the whole state.”