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Porter County approves first solar facility

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Updated: April 24, 2012 8:16AM



VALPARAISO — Portage Township is getting the county’s first solar farm.

The Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved the plan Wednesday for Portage Solar LLC, which calls for solar panels on about 11 acres at the southwest corner of Robbins Road and North County Road 450W, just outside Portage city limits.

Energy collected at the site would be sold to Northern Indiana Public Service Co.

The site will include a buffer of trees, and existing hedgerows on Robbins Road and on the west part of the property will remain, said county planning and zoning administrator Raymond Joseph.

The solar farm will still require a permit and a storm water management plan before the project can move forward, Joseph said.

Representatives from Minnesota-based Ecos Renewable Energy have said they are serving as development consultants for private investors in the project. Ecos also is involved with plans for solar farms in Hobart and Merrillville.

In early February, the BZA turned down a similar proposal for Union Township, south of Indiana 130 at 495 W. County Road 450N. While the Portage Township site is zoned for light industrial, the Union Township site was zoned rural residential/light industrial, and the plan caused consternation for neighbors there.

“It’s a different area and different placement,” Joseph said of the Portage Township plan.

Ecos is suing the BZA and the county over the denial of the Union Township project. One of the arguments in the suit is the BZA’s decision was based on public sentiment and not on the evidence or record before the board.

In other matters, the BZA gave the go-ahead for an indoor softball and baseball facility at 884 N. County Road 100W in Liberty Township.

The building was last used as a landscaping business and needs both exterior and interior remodeling, as well as removal of remnants of the landscaping business from the property, Joseph said.

The plan calls for indoor batting and pitching cages, a practice area, team meeting rooms, and a snack bar. The facility, which should be ready before the fall, would be used year round, said attorney Todd Leeth, who is representing the applicants.

The facility will be open to any teams in the area that want to use it, he added.

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