Emerald Green solar project advances

Written on 07/06/2024
Patrick Munsey

County enters infrastructure use agreements, takes aim at nuisance properties

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The long-suffering Emerald Green solar field project on Howard County’s east side took another step toward reality this week as the county Board of Commissioners passed a resolution governing how the solar developer will compensate taxpayers for infrastructure use.

Introduced by County Attorney Alan Wilson, a road use agreement permits Emerald Green to use county roads surrounding the project in exchange for the company maintaining, repairing, and reconstructing the roads as necessary. It is expected that heavy trucks will utilize the roads extensively during the solar field’s construction.

A second infrastructure agreement sets similar conditions on publicly maintained drains in the solar project area. Emerald Green is permitted to pass over or intersect county drains, with a commitment to maintain, repair, or reconstruct the drains as necessary.

A third agreement between Emerald Green and the county establishes the procedures to decommissioning the solar field at the end of its useful life, including any repairs necessary to restore the property to agricultural use.

The commissioners adopted the resolution containing these agreements at their July 1 meeting. At the same time, they also entered a road use agreement with a proposed stone quarry located in Tipton County. Because of its close proximity to the Howard County line, it is anticipated that the quarry will use Howard County roads. The quarry operators have agreed to repair any potential damage to roads due to its operation.

With those agreements secured, the commissioners turned their attention to a growing problem in the county. The prevalence of dilapidated and nuisance properties in the incorporated portions of the county is rising. The commissioners pledged that action soon will be taken on the matter.

“I’m getting some complaints from our county citizens on nuisance properties,” said Commissioner Jack Dodd. “I'm a firm believer in property rights. People have a right on their property to do what they choose until it starts to interfere with neighbors.

“These people force us into positions that we don't want to be. We don't want to make these decisions to be ‘Big Brother,’ but people are forcing us into these positions. I don't like that. They are forcing us to come up with ordinances to say, ‘Thou shalt not.’ I don't like that.”

Dodd said that he has visited several nuisance properties in recent months, many located in residential neighborhoods where people are living in closer proximity to one another. He announced that the board of commissioners soon would address these properties through ordinance, presumably establishing remediation and demolition procedures not unlike those existing in the City of Kokomo.

“We are forced into looking at some things; the people chose this,” said Dodd. “We are working with our attorney on coming up with some verbiage that we can use. It bothers me, but we have to do it.”

Dodd’s dismay was echoed by Commissioner Jeff Lipinski, who acknowledged most of the current offending properties identified are located in his district on the county’s west side

“I’ve received a lot of calls,” said Lipinski. “I inherited one of the worst nuisance properties in the county, and it is currently in the court system. There are several – it seems like a lot -- in the western side of that county. It is becoming a serious issue.”

No timeframe was given on when potential property standards legislation will appear before the commissioners.