A new billboard on State Road 135 near Trafalgar was turned down after residents voiced their opposition, saying the sign would be out of place in a rural setting.
The Johnson County Board of Zoning Appeals denied Hoosier Energy’s request to place a 25-foot-by-12-foot sign with a height of 27 feet at its new solar farm north of Trafalgar. Instead, the company will have to build a smaller sign.
Concern about setting a precedent for larger signs, as well as the possibility of the billboard detracting from local aesthetics and properties values in the area led county planning staff to recommend the larger sign not be approved, Johnson County Senior Planner Desiree Calderella said.
Lance Fischer, who lives just south of the solar farm, said he was opposed to that big of a sign going into a rural setting.
“We don’t want to get a precedent started in an area with billboard signs,” he said.
Hoosier Energy had said in its request for the billboard that the smaller sign size required by the county makes it difficult for the company to educate the public on solar energy and its commitment to the community.
Fischer is concerned other businesses in the area would also ask for larger signs if the one for Hoosier Energy was approved and doesn’t see why such a large sign would be necessary.
“It is kind of obvious that it is a solar farm, which is a reference to renewable energy,” he said.
County zoning rules only allow for billboards along Interstate 65. All other signs are restricted to a maximum height of 10 feet and the sign can only have a surface area of 32 square feet.
Any signs at the 10-acre, $2.5 million solar farm will have to comply with those rules, Calderella said.
“We respect the board’s decision and will work with them on the appropriate signage they would like to see,” said Hoosier Energy spokesperson Mary Lynn Beaver.
Construction on the solar farm is expected to wrap up in October.
Several people spoke against approving the larger sign at the Tuesday night meeting. Another nine people sent emails in opposition to it as well, Calderella said.
Only a Hoosier Energy representative spoke in favor of the sign.