TIPTON – With juwi Wind Energy expected to submit an application for a second wind farm in Tipton County, the Plan Commission is considering possible changes to the permitting process.
Juwi Wind has announced it plans to develop the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm with between 30 and 90 wind turbines in Prairie and Liberty townships in northwestern Tipton County.
An application for a conditional use permit is expected to be filed in time to be considered the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals at the February meeting.
The Tipton County Commissioners and Tipton County Council have already approved 10-year tax abatement for the project.
Steve Edson, director of the Planning Department, said Thursday he has asked for an opinion from Tipton County John Brooke considering a possible conflict of interest by Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals members.
At the December Plan Commission there was a discussion about creation of a Wind Energy Overlay District which would limit where wind farms could be located.
Mike Baird, Plan Commission president, said he was concerned about discussing any change in the permit process until an option is received from Brooke.
Edson said it’s a complicated situation and the county is in a state of flux.
He said there are three options the Plan Commission members could consider in their advisory role to the three Tipton County Commissioners.
One option is to permit wind energy projects in certain districts with no subsequent approval required. Edson said Plan Commission members have not shown support for the overlay district proposal.
The second option is a wind farm is permitted by conditional use in areas zoned for agricultural, light and general industrial use with Board of Zoning Appeal approval. Edson said this is the process currently utilized.
The third option is the establishing a district where the use could be allowed but it would be subject to development plan approval from the Plan Commission.
Baird said before there is any discussion about changing the procedure the potential for direct or indirect conflict of interest among Plan Commission members has to be resolved.
He said any changes should not be considered or implemented until the Plan Commission approves a new comprehensive plan that is expected to be presented in draft form before the February meeting.
Baird said when it comes to zoning changes in the comprehensive plan there is specific language concerning conflict of interest in state statute. He said it has to be determined if one or more of the commission members shouldn’t be included in the discussion.
Edson said the state doesn’t require disqualification of a Plan Commission member for a conflict of interest in passing the comprehensive plan.
Whatever changes are made in the future permitting process, the juwi Wind Energy Prairie Breeze project in Liberty and Prairie townships will be governed by the current process.
Edson said an application has not been received from the company, but one is anticipated.
“They have a right to expect to fall under the current rules,” he said. “We don’t want to change the rules until the comprehensive plan is completed.”
Commissioner Phil Heron asked Plan Commission members to consider changing the setback requirement for wind turbines in the future comprehensive plan.
Heron said a wind turbine only has to be 1.5 times the height of the turbine from his property line or 600 feet. He said a setback of 1,250 should be put in place to protect non-participant property owners in the future.
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