Hobart council expedites solar farm project
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent February 15, 2012 9:04PM
Updated: March 17, 2012 10:22AM
HOBART — Emergency action taken by the City Council on Wednesday night will allow a Minnesota company to have a public hearing on its solar farm proposal at the March 1 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
The council declared an emergency and approved an ordinance on renewable energy on second reading, as well as first reading. The ordinance covers wind turbines and solar panels.
City planner A.J. Bytnar said the council’s action allows Hobart Solar LLC to move forward with its request to have a public hearing on its proposal to build 4,576 solar panels on 10 acres of a 50-acre parcel on 49th Avenue.
Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd, originally was going to vote against having the second reading Wednesday night, saying he had some questions for Bytnar and he didn’t believe there was an emergency.
But Bytnar said time is an issue for the developers, who are working with Northern Indiana Public Service Co. on their plans. The developers plan to sell the energy they produce from the solar panels back to the utility company.
Bytnar said Hobart Solar LLC still needs to go before both the BZA and Board of Public Works for approvals.
He said the ordinance can always be amended.
“A.J. saw the continued movement toward environmental types of businesses coming to town. A.J. moved forward to create language for those types of businesses. These are becoming a reality and we’re making sure our community stays on the cutting edge,” Mayor Brian Snedecor said.
Bytnar said it was the interest in wind turbines and solar panels that spurred the ordinance. The city several months ago approved two wind turbines on farm property.
“It’s been pretty obvious in the last year that there is interest in wind turbines and solar energy. This helps move it along at an expeditious rate,” Bytnar said.
He said the ordinance designates where these uses would be appropriate and requires that areas around the solar panels and turbines remain in a natural state.
“We want them to blend into the neighborhood,” he said.
Bytnar said the ordinance also addresses the issue of glare from solar panels and the decommissioning of panels that are in disrepair in both commercial and residential uses.
The Plan Commission voted earlier this month to give Hobart Solar LLC a favorable recommendation to the BZA.
The council also approved a resolution adding conditional uses to the comprehensive plan.