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Proposed solar farm amendments sent to St. Joseph County Council

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The St. Joseph County Area Plan Commission has unanimously approved amendments to an ordinance on large-scale solar farms. These amendments address proximity to property lines and zoning for land use.
According to WSBT, Public comments were divided, with some supporting and others opposing the changes. Solar energy experts highlighted the importance of solar power in the area.
The group “Rethink Industrial Solar” is advocating for solar projects to be built in different locations. One of their leaders views the decision as a positive step but believes the amendments could be stricter.

A representative from Hexagon Energy, which has been a big proponent of developing solar power facilities in northern Indiana, spoke in favor of solar projects to the commission saying that the region needs power and that investing in solar farms will help meet demand.

Many people who live in the county, especially in the North Liberty area, turned out to the meeting to voice opposition. Many of those people are associated with the group Rethink Industrial Solar in St. Joseph County.

“I think it’s a wonderful start for us,” said Amanda Mitchell, who is a leader with the group. “There’s a couple homes that will be completely surrounded on all four sides if this project goes through, so think about that 150 foot from your home or driveway, it will be like your own little home or compound. And for some of us on three or two sides, 150 foot is drastically changing our community.”

Mitchell appeared to neither be for nor against the idea of solar power but said it’s all about how and where it is invested in. Also, she said the public had felt in the dark for much of the discussion on the matter, and that Wednesday’s meeting was a chance to get a lot of their chest.

“You saw in the meeting that someone were like, ‘Well, are we for or against it?’ How is this,” she said. “Because they want to understand the issue better and how it’s going to protect them in the community and it’s almost like we all trauma dumped on this poor area plan, right? And it’s really because nobody’s had a voice in this situation.”

The changes in current county ordinances still have to be considered by the full St. Joseph County Council.

The next opportunity for public input is at the St. Joseph County Council meeting on July 9th. Councilwoman Amy Drake announced her intention to propose a moratorium at that meeting.

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