TIPTON – The Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals didn’t violate Indiana’s Open Door Law during a July meeting, the Public Access Counselor ruled last week.
Luke Britt, the Indiana Public Access Counselor, did find, however, the BZA violated the Open Door Law in regard to the agenda requirement in the state law.
The BZA held a meeting July 31 to discuss the ground rules for a hearing on a proposed property value guarantee submitted by juwi Wind for the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm. During the meeting, the BZA did not take public comment on the topic. It did vote on a request by juwi Wind to modify setback conditions that were included in the wind developer’s permit.
The Citizen’s Action Coalition filed a complaint alleging the notice of the meeting didn’t indicate the BZA would be taking any action on the setback modification request for the wind farm in northwestern Tipton County. The CAC also contended the BZA violated state law by not allowing juwi Wind officials, lease holders and the public to comment on the discussions by the board.
Britt found that proper notice of the meeting was posted 48 hours prior to July 31. In his opinion, Britt said the Indiana Open Door Law only requires public meetings be open and does not require the opportunity for the public to speak.
On the posted agenda for the meeting, there was no mention of a discussion concerning a modification of the setback requirement.
During the meeting, BZA President Jerry Acres said the board shouldn’t consider modifying the setback requirement and the board voted 3-to-1 to deny the request from juwi Wind.
Britt said specific subject matter for the meeting was not included in the agenda posted for the BZA meeting.
In a response to the Public Access Counselor, Acres said the vote taken did not require a public hearing because it merely attempted to clarify an upcoming meeting and set the ground rules.
A civil action is pending, filed by juwi Wind against the BZA and Acres, seeking judicial review of the actions at the July 31 meeting. The suit alleges the actions violated Indiana’s Open Door Law.
Earlier this year, the BZA approved a conditional use permit for the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm which included a 1,500-foot setback requirement from the property line of residential properties and the development of a property value guarantee.
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