GOSHEN — An economic development agreement for the construction of a $120 million solar farm near Millersburg was unanimously approved Saturday by the Elkhart County Council members.
The next step for the project is to win approval from the Elkhart County Commissioners for the property rezoning needed. The commissioners are expected to take up the matter Monday morning.
Kansas City-based Savion Development intends to install solar panel arrays on about 850 acres of agricultural land south of Millersburg. The company has an agreement with two sets of property owners to lease land around Ind. 13, C.R. 146, C.R. 148 and C.R. 43.
The array is expected to generate 150 megawatts of electricity. The electricity will be transferred to transmission lines owned by American Electric Power.
The economic development agreement calls for 45% of the tax-phase in benefits to be returned to the county in the form of economic development payments. That amount is estimated at $831,780, according to Sara Mills of Savion.
The agreement also contains a closing plan that would be utilized if the company decides to leave the property in the future.
The council’s financial consultant Todd Samuelson said the Savion investment will add to the tax base in Benton Township, thus lowering the property taxes for residents. He estimated the average homeowner in the township would experience a $41 annual reduction in their property tax while those owning agriculture land would receive a 90 cents-per-acre reduction.
During the public hearing, a number of people spoke for the project and others spoke against it, with some targeting the use of tax-phase ins for new large investments in general.