KOKOMO — ENGIE, a French multinational utility company, is hoping the saying “the third time’s the charm” is true.
The company has filed an application for a special exception permit to operate a roughly 1,800-acre solar farm near Greentown dubbed Emerald Green Solar. It is the third time ENGIE has filed for the permit after its last two times have been thwarted by the Howard County Board of Zoning Appeals by 3-2 votes.
The company’s request will be heard and voted on by the BZA at its Feb. 28 meeting. The meeting will be 5:30 p.m. and held in the large conference room in the basement of the Howard County Administration Center, 220 N. Main St.
After the second denial last July, ENGIE filed a petition for judicial review in Miami Superior Court I, arguing the board was “capricious” in its ruling, its rejection was “unsupported” by evidence and that former board member Jeff Miller was biased against the project when he said he lost two new home construction contracts in the area because of the proposed solar farm. Miller owns Cornerstone Construction Consulting, a local company that specializes in custom home building and remodeling and voted “no” both times ENGIE’s request came in front of the county BZA.
Miller is no longer on the county BZA, though, after the Howard County Commissioners last year voted 2-1 to not reappoint him and appoint Greg Tipton to the five-person board instead.
A hearing where Miami County Superior Court 1 Judge David Grund will hear oral arguments from both ENGIE and Howard County is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 15.
ENGIE tells the Kokomo Tribune it will continue its legal challenge despite filing again for a special exception permit because it sees the two as “separate legal matters.”
“Community leaders have encouraged us to apply again, recognizing the last BZA decision did not reflect the clear evidence that the project complies with Howard County’s solar ordinance,” Tom Schoder, developer for Emerald Green Solar, said in an emailed statement. “Further, we owe it to our supporters, in particular, our landowner partners who want to continue pursuing this opportunity to preserve and protect their farmland by exercising their personal property rights. They also want to help their broader community by making their land productive for clean, quiet electricity generation and yielding substantial economic investment to the benefit of everyone in the county, including the Eastern Howard County School Corporation.”
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