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Elkhart County solar farm project on hold

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 7:13 PM EDT
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A lack of details has delayed a proposed project to build a 100-megawatt solar farm in Elkhart County.

Kansas City-based Savion is behind the $120-million project.

The facility would be located on 850-acres of farmland in Benton Township in southeastern Elkhart County that is already under lease.

A public hearing on the project drew a standing room only crowd. A show of hands indicated that most of the remonstrators live within two miles of the project.

“This (view) is from my front porch and my kitchen window,” said one remonstrator as she showed the Elkhart County commissioners an enlarged photograph. “Right here, this is also where the sun comes up right here. Right here will be solar panels, and when they’re tipped, they’ll be 15-feet high.”

The woman said she did not want to see chain link fences with barbed wire while looking out her window.

Michelle Bontrager also addressed the commissioners saying, “An industrial solar complex belongs zoned in an area zoned for industrial purposes. The people with Savion would like us to believe this is some kind of farm, it is not.”

Bontrager went on to say, “Once this job is over, they’ll pack their bags and they’ll go back to Colorado, Kansas City, wherever they come from but it’s not business to us, This, those of us left here to look at this for the next thirty years, its personal for us.”

Commissioner Brad Rogers says he’s inclined to let farmers do what they want with land they own, but it was such a “wide-scale project” that commissioners were empathetic with the remonstrators. There’s very little, probably no noise and there’s no odor. So, the issue is with sight lines.”

Today the commissioners talked about possible ways to make the project less visible through the use of buffering, berms, setbacks, and landscaping.

The main reason for unanimously tabling a requested zoning change was the lack of a detailed decommissioning agreement to de-construct the project in about 30 years.

“We want to make sure that, that, the company is responsible for decommissioning, removing the panels, putting the ground back to, best to its original state as possible, and not at taxpayer expense,” Rogers said.

Plans call for the commissioners to reconsider the matter at a meeting in October.

The panel has an Oct. 26 deadline to act on the petition.

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