MMS solar new site

Solar panels are now being proposed for the east side of the Monticello Middle School property.

Project moved to east side of property

From solar arrays to indoor sports complexes, the Monticello planning and zoning board seems to have a bit of everything on its agenda for Monday night (Aug. 19).

Among the five items under consideration is a second try for a solar farm at Monticello Middle School, one that was turned down by the city council in July.

The Monticello school district hopes that moving a potential solar development even further from Ridge Point Subdivision neighbors will get the project green lit this time around. The site has been moved from directly behind the middle school to the east side of the school property – where soccer and ball fields currently sit – about 1,000 feet from the nearest neighbors.

The school district's partner on the project, Clean Energy Design Group, said it would help move ball fields in order to get the effort to go forward, something that made the school district pursue it again.

Neighbors showed up to PZB, school board and city council meetings in May and June to oppose the initial proposal, which would have placed arrays about 260 feet from Ridge Point houses.

Despite the changes, at least one of those homeowners, Deanelle Payne, said recently she is still opposed to the project, saying the school district should instead pursue a more aesthetically pleasing method, possibly roof-mounted panels or ones that would be incorporated into outdoor shelters.

Clean Energy Design officials say the 844 megawatt solar farm would supply about 90 percent of the energy needs of the middle school and save the school district an estimated $1.2 million in energy transmission costs over a 25-year lifetime.

Also under consideration at Monday's PZB session is a request from a couple who would like to construct a 27,000-square-foot indoor sports complex just east of the middle school.

To do so, Chris and Samantha Basak would need to annex a 3.23-acre piece of farmland into the city, and have it rezoned from urban residential to business, which would allow the new use.

“The facility would provide a large turf surface with netting to accommodate baseball, softball, football, soccer and many more activities in the Monticello community,” said a summary of the project included in the agenda. “Pregame Sports would also provide spaces for Monticello Gymnastics and the Monticello Wrestling Club. There would also be a birthday party/meeting area.”


Animal Shelter

A conditional use request is also being made by the Piatt County Animal Shelter, which hopes to move its operations to a new shelter it would like to construct on the south side of town.

The shelter is in negotiations to purchase a parcel at 1203 Raymond Road, which is currently zoned general industrial. A conditional use permit is needed to allow the organization to construct an animal shelter on the plot.

The non-profit currently operates its shelter at 301A S. Charter Street, in a portion of the former Piatt County government annex.

Also on the PZB agenda are requests from a South Buchanan Street homeowner for a front yard setback variance to accommodate the building of a deck and more accessible entry, and a rezoning and variance for property on East Old Route 47 to allow a homeowner to annex into the city and connect to sewer services.


Meeting input

Those wishing to speak at the meeting have two chances: During public participation at the start of the meeting, where they are required to sign in prior to the meeting and limited to five minutes; or during the public hearing portions of each agenda item, where no sign-in is needed.

Recommendations made by the PZB would go before the city council on Aug. 26 for final consideration.