Apex Clean Energy’s plans to place as many as 90 wind turbines in Henry and Rush County may be scrapped following a vote by the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday.
A very large crowd packed the Root Building at the Rush County Fairgrounds as the BZA considered a special exception request that would have paved the way for an estimated 66 turbines in northeastern Rush County. The plan, known as the Flat Rock Wind Project, included placement of as many as 29 turbines in Henry County’s Dudley and Franklin Townships.
Apex, represented by Rob Propes, presented a great deal of information in an effort to convince the board the company has met all the requirements for a special exception set forth in Rush County’s ordinance. Propes had a number of experts testify on the company’s behalf. They addressed common concerns like noise, property values, shadow flicker and ice thrown from the turbine blades in the winter time. Several people also spoke in support of the project, noting it represented a large increase in the county’s tax base and additional revenue for the county, schools, other organizations and citizens.
Even more people spoke against the idea of the turbines coming to the area, citing many of the concerns Apex and its experts had already brought to the BZA’s attention, but with different takes on the effects the turbines would have on nearby residents. The biggest concern appeared to be the 1,400-foot setback requirement, although Rush County’s ordinance only calls for 1,000-foot setbacks.
After nearly five hours of testimony, a motion was made to approve Apex’s request. It died for lack of a second. A motion was then made to change the setbacks from 1,400 to 2,640 feet, and to measure from any given turbine to a non-participating landowner’s property line rather than his residence. That motion died for lack of a second. A third motion, to increase the setbacks to 2,300 feet from non-participating landowners’ property lines, was made and seconded. It passed on a vote of 3 to 1.
Propes said such a requirement will likely kill the project.
“It was clearly a disappointing vote,” Propes said. “There were a lot of landowners who came out to support the project and it’s a shame all of the benefits didn’t come through clearly. I think it was clear that we met all the requirements of the ordinance because the plan was approved by the board with the condition of very aggressive setbacks that will jeopardize the project.”
He also said the company may pursue other avenues.
“We will be weighing our legal options as to whether or not we should file an appeal. This does put the Henry County portion of this project in jeopardy. Certainly, we’ll have to take a look and reassess what the overall impact of this will be.”
Henry County Commissioner Ed Yanos, who was among those who spoke in support of the wind farm, was disappointed in the outcome.
“I believe Henry County made a good decision in supporting this. I believe Henry County made a decision for future economic development in the area, and I’m sorry that Rush County didn’t see it the same way,” Yanos said.
New Castle-Henry County Economic Development CEO and President Corey Murphy also spoke in favor of the project at Wednesday’s meeting and following the vote said, “It didn’t go the way I had hoped, but the process was worked through. I don’t think it’s a move in the right direction in terms of leveraging a natural resource for the growth of our economy.”
Indianapolis attorney Stephen Snyder, who spoke against the wind farm on behalf of 19 property owners, had a different take on the outcome.
“The decision was somewhat surprising, but I have to assume the board considered all the evidence they had in front of them and made a determination that we needed a greater setback to protect the public,” Snyder said.
David Hiner, who owns property in the proposed wind farm area, said he was happy with the board’s decision but predicted, “This thing isn’t over yet.”
The 29 turbines being considered for Henry County alone represented a capital investment of approximately $100,000, Murphy said earlier this year.
The Rush County BZA also voted 3-1 to recommend to the county commissioners that a moratorium be placed on all wind projects for the next six months.