PRINCETON — Rather than risk denial of a rezoning request for properties near Princeton as proposed solar farm sites, Arevon Energy Inc. and Tenaska are revising their proposed site plan for the Gibson Solar project.
Princeton Planning Commission last month voted not to recommend the site plan recommended to them, after hearing a room full of neighbors voice concerns that the project will stunt housing development and erode property values.
Tenaska Project Development Director Jarred Pitts told Princeton Common Council members, (who have the final say on the site plan) this week that the public comments prompted the company to make "significant changes, removing parcels closer to the City of Princeton and remonstrators.
"We’re going to be starting on the process again," Pitts said. "We will be removing the parcels that were more confrontational here. We try to be good business neighbors. We realize there are concerns, and we are making changes..."
Pitts said the new site plan application would be submitted later this week, for review by the plan commission in a 6 p.m. Dec. 15 public hearing.
After review by the plan commission, the new site plan may come back to the common council for a final vote on rezoning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.
Then back to city council for final rezoning or not vote on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m.
The initial application sought rezoning for about 1,100 acres of property under the City of Princeton’s two-mile radius of zoning jurisdiction.
The proposed Gibson Solar project is the second development offered by Tenaska in Gibson County. The Elliott solar farm near Francisco is being sold to Northern Indiana Public Service Company, Senior Project Manager Chris Matthews of Arevon said last month.
The 280 megawatt Gibson Solar project would have a power purchase agreement with NIPSCO to buy the power, connecting to the Francisco station by a high voltage Duke Energy transmission line running east-west through the county.
Developers have leased about 2,240 acres in Patoka and Union Township. Areas under the Princeton zoning jurisdiction are southeast and southwest of city limits. The solar farm’s anticipated life span is 35 years.
Pitts said in October the project will comply with Gibson County’s solar energy ordinance provisions for decommissioning, road use, drainage, safety, setbacks, screening, height restrictions and venting.
The proposed project would be a $249 million investment, paying about $38 million in property taxes over the 35-year life of the project. Developers said it will create 370 construction jobs and 12 to 14 additional operations and maintenance jobs. Some $2.5 million in annual lease payments will be made to local landowners, reaching more than $135 million over three and a half decades.
The developer’s agreement with the county includes at least 20 acres of pollinator habitat, most within Princeton’s zoning jurisdiction.
Tenaska Community Relations Director Timberly Ross said in October the company developed a “good neighbor” payment program with residents near the project whose property is not under lease, will make economic development payments to Gibson County, has promised $200,000 for solar panels on government buildings, and earlier agreed to modify the footprint of the solar farm to make room for development on the U.S. 41 economic development area.
APARTMENT COMPLEX ZONING APPROVED
At Monday night's meeting, the common council approved a rezoning request from medium density residential to high density residential for property on South 2nd Avenue that proposed for a new apartment complex.
CWK Developments proposes development of large urban-style apartments, providing incentives such as property tax abatement, a bond issue and possibly state grants are received.
The site at the northwest corner of the roundabout on South 2nd Avenue would include a clubhouse office, 18 units of executive style furnished one-bedroom apartments, 24 two and 30 bedroom apartments and 30 one bedroom apartment, plus garage and self storage facilities.
The first phase of the $18 million investment would include apartments, the clubhouse, weight rooms, detached garages, grill/picnic areas, a dog park and walking trails.
Monthly apartment leases would range from $850 to $1,150, depending on the size of the apartment. Kinney said comparable housing in Evansville would cost about $1,400 a month.
Additional phases of development would be planned as a proposed road connects South 2nd Avenue to Richland Creek Drive.
Developer Wayne Kinney told the council there's a need for upscale apartments and single family housing in the area as Toyota continues hiring.