Tipton County has three options as to how it will regulate future development of wind farms.
Members of a steering committee working on revision to the county comprehensive plan discussed possible approaches during a recent meeting.
The options include: an overlay district where wind farms could be allowed, continuation of the current process where wind farms are permitted in areas zoned for agricultural and industrial use with Board of Zoning Appeals approval of a conditional use permit, or an overlay district with the Plan Commission having final approval.
Jim Ashley, a member of the Plan Commission serving on the steering committee, said the current process in which county’s Board of Zoning Appeals approval is the final step is awkward. BZA approval follows the granting of tax abatements and economic development agreements between the county commissioners and wind energy companies.
“This puts tremendous pressure on the five BZA members,” he said.
Plan Commission director Steve Edson said the agreements, which include road, decommissioning and economic development funds, are not affected by the BZA decision. He said those agreements are approved by the commissioners.
“The agreements don’t become effective until a permit is approved,” he said.
Ashley said an overlay district should be considered as an option for future wind farm developments.
Steering committee members decided to remove a sample map from the draft depicting the overlay districts, which would have allowed wind farm development in all areas of the county except around Tipton, Windfall, Sharpsville, Kempton, Hobbs and Goldsmith and along state highways.
Edson said the commissioners can approve, disapprove or send back to the Plan Commission the comprehensive plan with recommendations.
“Implementation of the comprehensive plan will bring changes to the zoning ordinances,” he said.
Tom Dolezal, a steering committee member, said the comprehensive plan should be what the community wants in terms of wind energy.
“It should be more specific,” he said. “We should begin the discussion while the public is engaged. The Plan Commission should begin discussions on wind energy.”
Edson said if the discussions involving wind energy become bogged down, the county could form an Ad Hoc committee to look at three options which could range from the least to the greatest level of regulation.
A similar committee was utilized with success in Tipton County when discussions involving Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation took place, he said.
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