Bass Lake-area residents will have to wait until next week to weigh in on a rezoning request that would pave the way for a potential solar farm. A company called Starke Solar, LLC is asking Starke County to rezone more than 800 acres in California and North Bend townships on the south side of Bass Lake, mainly from residential to agricultural. That, in turn, would allow for the installation of solar panels.
A public hearing had been scheduled for Mondayâ€™s Starke County Plan Commission meeting, but after the number of people quickly exceeded a safe level for the Annex Building meeting room, President Roger Chaffins suggested holding off. â€śWeâ€™ve run into a problem with this public hearing deal,â€ť he explained. â€śWeâ€™ve broke the social distancing rule with too many people. So itâ€™s been suggested that we move this to next week at a different building for more social distancing.â€ť
The plan commission hopes to hold the hearing at the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center, with an exact date to be determined sometime today. The meeting was technically put into recess, to avoid having to publish new legal notices in the newspaper.
But first, commission members discussed some of the rules for the hearing. They plan to limit each comment to two minutes, and require each speaker to present new information. â€śYouâ€™re saying something; if this person next to you agrees with what youâ€™re saying, I donâ€™t want to hear it from 15 people,â€ť Chaffins added.
As for the rezoning itself, officials pointed out that while the land may be zoned residential, much if it is already being used as farm ground. If the rezoning is approved by the plan commission, it would then go to the county commissioners for final approval. Under Starke Countyâ€™s ordinance, once a piece of land is zoned for agriculture, no additional hearings are needed to build a solar farm.