Fifteen individuals addressed members of the Marshall County Plan Commission on Thursday; June 22nd related to the proposed Solar Farm that has been securing lease agreements with farmers for an estimated 1500 acres in the Burr Oak area.

Plan Commission President David Hostetler told the packed meeting room in the County Building he wanted everyone to have an opportunity to speak so he was limiting comments to 3 minutes and if the comment had been previously stated they didn’t need to hear it again.  He also informed the crowd that the Plan Commission would take no action during the meeting, not even a decision to put a moratorium on large-scale solar farms.

The floor was open and Deb VanDeMark who lives on Tulip Road and has led the charge against the Burr Oak solar farm project and the separate battery storage project spoke first.  She said, “We are before you tonight to discuss concerns of our ordinance that was put in place on January 19, 2021.  This is about Burr Oak and the rest of Marshall County.  At that time solar farms were just getting started.  Since then, farm ground is being replaced with solar at a very rapid rate, matter of fact being gobbled up, this is catching the public eye and communities are upset, the effects and concerns of the solar farms are more evident, and there have been environmental problems, land prices are decreasing, some solar companies have sold, merged or filed bankruptcy, complaints of noise, wind turbines are being abandoned in fields, and the list goes on.” 

 VanDeMark said it is up to elected officials and the Plan Commission to protect the county and the other landowners.  She contends that the county’s ordinance isn’t strong enough to protect adjacent landowners, and the environment, guarantee property values, or have emergency and fire safety plans in place. Deb told plan commission members, “Let’s not give up our valuable farm ground to solar farms which may only be here for a short time until they are replaced with something new.”

Paul Levett suggested increasing the setbacks of the current ordinance from 250 feet from a residence to 500 feet.  He also asked to plan commission to review and revise the current ordinance that is in place.   

Dale Schultz lives on Peach Road and farms in Marshall and Pulaski counties.  He said he heard that night in the room that wells are going bad in Pulaski County.  He wants more investigation before the farm ground is turned into solar because farm ground is where our food comes from.    

Culver Town Councilman Bill Githens has concerns with the proposed battery storage units that are planned to be attached to the energy transfer stations are not in the county’s ordinance. 

Lauren Overmyer who lives on 10B Road is a lifelong county resident spoke out against “climate corporatism” saying, “This is a billion-dollar company coming into our town.  It’s not good for the environment.”  She said this same company is having issues in a community in Wisconsin. Overmyer said there was a study in 2020 that showed homes in Rhode Island close to solar projects had as much as a 7% decline in value.    

Ed Allen, who was a member of the original solar ordinance committee, is adamantly opposed to solar farms and has many recommendations.  Allen told the county plan commission he has an unconfirmed report that there is contamination on the east side of the solar farm in Bremen.

Becky Bechtel, Field Operations Representative from the Land and Liberty Coalition told the County Plan Commission, “I have reviewed your ordinance and think it is outstanding as written. Your setbacks are very reasonable and fair to all parties. Given the work you have done, I would encourage you to reject any moratorium because the county has already been through this process and the current ordinance written is very good.”

County Councilman Will Paterson from Bremen said he and the entire council supports a moratorium.  He told them the county had no ordinance for the battery storage project that is also working in the county. While he respects the rights of landowners, he has concerns for the rights of neighbors.

County Plan Commission president Dave Hostetler said he will have discussions with members and the County Plan Director on their next step. He told those still in the room he appreciated their concerns and comments.