Solar field plans have residents concerned

Town commission tables review pending changes to project by school district
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Plans for a solar panel field at Zaun Field proposed by the Grafton School District remain on hold after neighbors expressed concern about the project’s potential impact before the  Town of Grafton Plan Commission last week.

Several residents said the solar field would become an eyesore and lower property values in the area. Although plans call for the planting of trees to conceal the solar panels from nearby properties, residents were skeptical.

“This is totally unacceptable. How long do I have to wait for the trees to grow?” one resident asked the commission during its Wednesday, April 7, meeting.

However, school officials said the project would be beneficial to the district and area as a whole.

“We want the best use of land for our taxpayers,” Supt. Jeff Nelson said during the meeting.

Nelson said the district has experienced declining enrollment, and the solar field would provide the district with $30,000 in additional annual revenue for the next 30 years.

Last year, SunVest Solar, a contractor for We Energies, proposed the project, but it was nixed by the commission. This time, the Grafton School District is the applicant, though the revised plans are nearly identical to the original version.

“We want this to work, and we are willing to meet whatever specifications you would like to see,” Nelson said.

Other residents expressed concern that the project could limit space for youth soccer and football programs. The portion of the property that would be used would reduce the sports use by 155,000 square feet.

Nelson said there is additional space available at the field to accommodate youth sports programs and that other district property can be used as well.

Commission members asked if the solar panels can be installed at other district facilities, such as the high school roof, but school officials said Zaun Field is the optimal location for sunlight. The school roofs can’t accommodate the project, Nelson said.

The commission tabled taking action on the project.

Town Chairman Lester Bartel asked school officials to revise the project plans so the commission can revisit them in May. He noted that  the district appears to be willing to accommodate the residents concerns, and the commission will likely approve the plans.

“We want to work together with our school district to support our students and families,” Bartel said. “We just want to make sure everything is accounted for.”

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