Residents give final approval to solar project

Electors’ unanimous vote seals school district’s deal with firm to use Zaun Field
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Residents of the Grafton School District unanimously agreed to give a green light to install a solar field at Zaun Field in the Town of Grafton.

The Grafton School Board held a special meeting Monday, May 24, during which electors approved a lease agreement with SolarVest Now, a contractor of We Energies, on a 20-0 vote. They also approved on a 19-0 vote a new lease with North Shore United soccer club, which uses the field.

The solar field was approved earlier this month by the Grafton Town Board, which previously denied a conditional-use permit for the project to SolarVest Now last year. The project was initially opposed by neighbors who feared the installation of solar panels could diminish their home values. 

Last month, the district applied for a conditional-use permit that was initially tabled by town officials. Supt. Jeff Nelson said the district will work with neighbors and the town to ensure all of their needs are met.

“We looked at all the different options. We want to be good neighbors working with the commission and neighbors,” Nelson said, noting the project will give the district an additional $900,000 in revenue during the next 30 years.

Nelson said the funding is especially important to the district due to declining enrollment.

The district has been working with Stantec, the town’s engineering firm, to determine proper landscaping that will maximize the screening of the solar panels.

The solar project will reduce sports fields by 155,000 square feet at the site, which is also used by the Grafton Gladiators youth football program. 

However, Nelson said more space is available to accommodate youth sports programs and other district property can be used, as well, including green space at Kennedy Elementary School and Grafton High School, even though those spaces are pegged for future use by other sports teams. 

School Board President Paul Lorge said he understands the project is controversial but believes it is in the best interest of the district and taxpayers.

“This is a difficult project to look at in totality,” Lorge said. “In this case, as funding becomes more scarce, changes have to be made and better utilization has to be considered.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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