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Elkhart County solar farm zoning change denied

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - The plug has been pulled on plans to build a $120-million solar farm in Elkhart County.

A zoning change needed for the project was unanimously denied at Monday’s meeting of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners.

In this case, the ‘ayes’ had it. Commissioners were worried about how things would look if 850-acres of farmland south of Goshen near Millersburg was taken out of production and lined with solar panels for the next 30 years.

“The way it looks is, it goes from viable farmland to 850 acres of solar panels,” Commissioner Frank Lucchese told 16 News Now. “And it’s such a large tract that I’m just not ready to, ready to change the way that part of the county looks.”

All three commissioners saw things the same way.

“On my property, I would have looked across the road directly at it,” said Elkhart County resident Adam Young.

Project developer Savion tried to work with nearby residents, offering to screen their view of the equipment with trees, bushes, and shrubberies. Savion balked at the idea of building berms.

”I think that’s this issue. We can’t make it invisible. Certainly, open to working with neighbors as I said in there, to continue to find a way that they might be comfortable,” said Savion’s Sara Mills.

“Putting a large industrial solar complex this size in the middle of prime farm ground just did not fit, with what agriculture is about,” added Adam Young.

While the commissioners closed the door on one way to carry out the project, they hinted that another may open in the future.

Elkhart County does not have an ordinance that deals specifically with large scale solar projects although there may be one on the horizon.

“The result today doesn’t mean that the project is necessarily, is necessarily gone,” said Sara Mills. “It sounds like if they do an ordinance and we’ll come back with an application potentially that meets the rules of that ordinance and attempt to get approval at that time.”

Commissioner Brad Rogers said the solar project had its supporters, but that they did not live near the solar farm site.

Rogers said a number of properties would have been surrounded by solar farm fencing on three sides.

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