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Muncie city council votes down solar field at former GM plant, citing cost and land use

The former GM property on W. 8th St. is currently a largely vacant brownfield.
City of Muncie
The former GM property on W. 8th St. is currently a largely vacant brownfield.

Muncie’s mayor has spent two years planning to turn 53 acres of a former GM plant into a solar energy field. Mayor Dan Ridenour has said a solar field is the best way to reuse the industrial brownfield.

Muncie police chief Nathan Sloan agrees.

“It doesn’t seem like we can do much with this field. It doesn’t seem like GM is going to come in and make this right anytime soon. And nothing productive has been done there since 2006.”

But community members have questioned if that’s true. As city councilman Troy Ingram puts it – “Why is it going to be more profitable, or even better for the city, to have a solar field here rather than an industrial complex that could provide jobs and everything else – and tax revenue?”

Read More: With so much support, who wants to phase out rooftop solar incentives? Answer: Indiana utilities

At Monday night’s meeting, the council and public showed a general support for solar energy. But many worried Muncie would pay more for this particular project than it would get back for selling solar energy to the grid.

City council president Jeff Robinson said Muncie would pay to lease the land, which takes it off city tax rolls. And that’s not the only annual cost the city would pay.

“Because we are responsible for maintenance and repairs, my concern – 15 years from now, 18 years from now, something catastrophic happens. Maybe it costs $300-400,000. Now we’re wiped out.”

The council’s 5-4 vote means the project won’t go forward through the city.