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By VICKY BOYD
Jason and Amber Tolle, 5378 East 600 North, in Windfall, went before the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals to ask for a Development Standard Variance to allow them to put a ground-mounted solar array in their front yard, less than the required 75-foot setback. The Tolle’s were asking for an approximate 20-foot setback from the edge of the road. The home is located approximately 70 feet from the edge of the road.
The solar array would be approximately 15 feet from the eastern property line. The placement of the solar array would not affect the line of sight from entering or leaving the driveway. BZA members do not have a problem with Criteria A, being injurious to public health, safety, morals and general welfare of the community.
Criteria B, the use and value of the adjoining properties will not be adversely affected by allowing the variance. The adjoining properties are all agriculture.
Criteria C, the strict application of the terms of the zoning ordinance will result in practical difficulties in the use of the property. Plan Director Steve Niblick noted the applicant must prove this to be true. The petitioner must prove there is no other location for the solar array to be placed on their property. The expense of moving the solar array or of removing additional trees on the property would need to be proven as a practical difficulty. According to staff, neither of these would change the use of the property as a residence.
Jason was asked about removing additional trees in order to move the solar array further away from the edge of the road. He noted he would have to remove four large black walnut trees and he would rather not do that.
Board member Bob Powell noted county highway trucks have been known to throw frozen dirt and sod as high as 100 feet off the road and into people’s yards. He said he would hate for that to happen to the solar array and the county would have to pay to have it fixed.
Member Gary David asked if the solar array could be moved further from the edge of the road. All three board members including Scot Gasho believe 20 feet is just too close to the road.
Powell noted there are “cowboy plowers plowing snow and they throw the frozen dirt and sod 25 to 30 feet into my yard.
Amber noted she is in charge of dispatching the snowplow drivers in Howard County and knows what he is talking about. She said they have lived there for 15 years and have never had a problem with sod and dirt thrown that far. She also noted the road doesn’t have a berm and it was reinforced during the windmill building. She said that is why they don’t have an issue with throwing frozen dirt etc.
Powell said he would be more comfortable at 30 feet. David noted if the “old guy is comfortable with that then I am too.”
Rob Walsman of Jefferson Electric noted the solar arrays are able to withstand large hailstones and they would be able to withstand frozen dirt and sod.
Gasho asked what the magic number of the setback is? Attorney David Langolf Smith said 75 feet is the required setback.
Gasho noted he has driven the plow trucks before and it is difficult to see the road while plowing. He has seen a truck out in the middle of a field plowing snow thinking it was on the road. Jason noted there is a fence around the property if they get off the road they would take out the fence.
Niblick noted all three attending board members must vote unanimously in order to pass whatever decision they make. Whether it is approved or denied. If there aren’t three votes then it would have to come back to the board again.
Powell asked Gasho to make the motion. Gasho made the motion to deny the petition for a 20-foot setback. The motion died for lack of a second.
Powell made a motion to allow the petitioner to have a 40-foot setback, David seconded the motion. A vote was taken and it was passed.
Amber asked if they could appeal the decision? She was told she would need to speak to Niblick on how to handle an appeal.
The second hearing was postponed for a Development Standard Varianc for Lisa Sparks. The petitioner is not yet ready to present. Niblick noted if the petition is postponed two or three times then he will request that it be readvertised prior to being heard.
Board members reorganized prior to starting the hearing. There are only three board members at the current time. Grant Dunn’s term expired and he did not choose to be on the board again. Joe Mahaney resigned his position. The two vacancies have yet to be filled.
Powell motioned to nominate David as president of the board. It was seconded by Gasho and approved. Powell nominated Gasho as vice president it was seconded by David and approved. Powell nominated Judy Coker as secretary it was seconded by David and approved.
The Findings of Facts for the Devendorf Use Variance request were approved.
The next meeting of the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals will be on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m.