Town likely to table plan for solar panels on Zaun Field

Officials say they want more public input on We Energies’ proposal that has school district support
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Plans to install solar panels at Zaun Field in the Town of Grafton will likely be put on hold after the Town of Grafton Plan Commission’s public hearing on the issue on Wednesday, Dec. 2. 

Town Chairman Lester Bartel said a vote on whether to grant a conditional-use permit to Pewaukee-based solar energy company SunVest Solar will be tabled because staff members are seeking further information before making a recommendation to the commission. 

“We want to know all of the details and hear the public’s input,” Bartel said. “The way state and federal laws are set up with energy proposals makes it really difficult for us to turn them down.”

Bartel said the town hasn’t received much opposition to the solar project, but officials from the Fusion Soccer Club that uses the fields are concerned about losing available space.

The field is also used by the Grafton Gladiators youth football league team. 

The Grafton School District owns the field but needs approval from the town for the solar farm. 

In October, school officials said the project could create approximately $900,000 in additional revenue for the district during the next 30 years.

Supt. Jeff Nelson said We Energies approached the district to lease the northern portion of the field to install ground-base solar panels, creating an additional annual revenue of $30,000 for up to 30 years. 

The portion of Zaun Field in question is used for soccer and would be reduced by 155,000 square feet if plans are approved. 

The district considered using school roofs for solar panels, but Director of Facilities Jamie Scofield said it could only be done on new roof sections that were constructed during the district’s $39.9 million referendum project several years ago.

Several parents told the School Board that the sports programs are outgrowing the current space at Zaun Field and they opposed the proposal. 

The board did not take action at its meeting, but the general consensus was to pursue the project. The board is also considering researching other green space alternatives on district property, such as land at Kennedy Elementary School.  

“We want to maintain a healthy relationship with all of those programs,” School Board President Paul Lorge said.

“(We) want to ensure underutilized district assets, being green spaces without buildings, are available to the community entities to drive value.”

District Business Services Director Topher Adams said negotiations with We Energies are ongoing.

“This will be a very lengthy approval process,” he said.

Bartel said the project will likely be discussed at next month’s Plan Commission meeting.

The public hearing was to take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall,  1230 11th Ave.

“We want to hear the residents’ opinions and we want to meet the needs of our youth sports programs,” Bartel said. “We want to make an informed decision on this proposal.” 

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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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