by Dan Ruud
The Belle Plaine City Council Monday night unanimously approved the annexation of 10 acres from Belle Plaine Township that should help pave the way for a cricket field complex east of Oak Crest Elementary School.
Cricket is a bat and ball game played on a circular field between two teams of eleven players who score runs (points) by running between posts called wickets. Each of the wickets is at one end of a rectangle of flattened grass called the pitch.
According to Belle Plaine Community Development Director Cynthia Smith Strack, Sabyasachi Sengupta of Chaska, who recently purchased the property from Ewald and Adella Gruetzmacher, plans to build two regulation-size cricket fields and one youth field, the plans for which he will be bringing forward to the planning commission and city council soon. Also included in the plans are parking and viewing areas. Future plans call for a clubhouse and a dome over the youth field.
Smith Strack said construction of the complex, which would be called Tatiana Fields, is proposed to begin this year. Sengupta plans to bring in cricket players/teams from the metro area, Canada and elsewhere to play in games and tournaments  at the complex.
More about Sengupta’s plans will be covered in future editions of the Herald.
In other business Monday night, the council unanimously authorized the mayor and city administrator to execute a development agreement with DG Minnesota CSG 4 LLC for the soon-to-be constructed solar energy complex in Belle Plaine.
Last October, the council approved a request for an interim use permit to establish a ground-mounted utility scale solar energy system at 1300 South Street West. Also approved was a variance to allow an above ground power line at West South Street in association with the project.
Construction of the solar garden is expected to begin late this spring or early summer and take two to four months to complete.
The property is owned by Kim Devine-Johnson, Tammy Devine, Christopher Johnson and Michael Carlson, the former of whom spoke at the public hearing last October and told the council the land has been in her family for over 100 years and that conservation has always been “core to my family.”
Last July, the council approved the property owners’ request to annex 43.29 acres in Blakeley Township to the city to help pave the way for the solar energy complex.
The interim use permit will allow a 5 megawatt solar garden on the site, which is located adjacent to the western boundary of the city limits. Joining the property owners as applicants is Toby Butterfield, representing DG Minnesota CSG 4 LLC.
Butterfield said the solar panels will be mounted to steel racks at a height of approximately 8 feet. The complex will be buffered through a mix of fencing and vegetation, and “will only be visible to people on airplanes.” Native grasses and other vegetation will be allowed to grow within the complex.
Butterfield added that there could be some 150 employees working at the site at the peak of construction, but once completed, the secured site will be basically unmanned.
Over 300 feet of West South Street will be upgraded to accommodate the complex, access to which will be the same as the current access to Prairie Oaks Institute, which is also owned by the Devine-Johnson family.
During the 2-4 month construction period, Butterfield said they expect some 300 trucks to pass up and down South Street. Smith Strack said affected residential property owners would be notified beforehand about the construction schedule and the anticipated number of trucks per day, and who to contact for more information or complaints.
Butterfield said the generation tie lines (power lines) associated with the project “will be designed, built and owned by Xcel Energy.”
*Unanimously approved the fire department’s request to purchase a grass rig slide-in unit from Heiman Fire Equipment Company at a cost of $16,352. It will replace the existing aged unit. Fire Chief Matt Stier reported that public works personnel will perform the removal and installation of the unit, which means no additional fees will be incurred.
*Unanimously appointed Catherine Tarbell as a member of the Belle Plaine Planning and Zoning Commission and Brittney Cotner as an alternate. Cotner had held the position before recently resigning due to schedule conflicts.
*Public Works Superintendent Al Fahey reported that the retired U.S. Army helicopter that was removed from Veterans Memorial Park several months ago for refurbishing is “ready to be painted and we will be moving it out to the paint shop next week.”
The next regular meeting of the Belle Plaine City Council is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 20 in the City Hall building at 218 North Meridian Street downtown.