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BZA votes 3 to 1 to change setbacks on wind farms; Six month moratorium set on matter

The Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals met Wednesday evening the in spacious confines of the Root Building on the Rush County Fairgrounds. A portion of the large crowd in attendance was forced to line the walls inside the building with even more residents standing outside the building.

For a number of months, the Flat Rock Wind Farm issue has been responsible for pitting neighbor on neighbor regarding the possible placement of wind turbines on rural property.

Those on both side of the issue attended the meeting.

Following a presentation by representatives from APEX, a company with aspirations of placing 61 to 66 wind turbines in the county, the BZA board opened the floor up to those in attendance for public impute.

Those for the project to proceed were quiet and reserved and spoke of the economic value to the county as well as a number of other valid points regarding the positives the plan could bring to the county.

Next, it was a legal representative for those opposed to take the microphone. He was followed by a number of those opposed to the project giving their thoughts on the project.

The matter then returned to those with a decision to be made, the BZA, on to move forward with the proposed APEX plan or to wilt under the seemingly overall disapproval to the plan.

Following a brief discussion and questions session, president Mike Holzback, members Steve Cain, Larry Copley, Sandra Jackson and Joe Rathz were faced with making a decision regarding the necessary setback distance for the wind turbines from residences and property lines. A motion was made by Joe Rathz to grant the APEX request as presented. Without a second, the motion failed. A second motion to move the required minimum setback from 1,000 feet to 2,600 feet was made by Steve Cain, for lack of a second that motion also failed.

A third motion was made by Larry Copley to move the setback to 2,300 feet. It gained the necessary second and was approved by a vote of 3 to 1, with Rathz the lone member voting against the change.

Following the third motion, a representative approached the board and said that a change of the distance would kill the project and be rejected by APEX.

Once the BZA’s decision was announced, those against the wind farms broke out in cheers and clapping while representatives from APEX and those for the Flat Rock Wind Project were left shaking their heads and wondering what went wrong.

Following the vote to change setback requirements, BZA members then approved a six-month moratorium on future wind turbine issues.

When asked their thoughts on the boards decision following the vote, APEX representative simply said, “disappointed.”

In a conversation with Rush County ECDC Director John McCane, he too was dismayed at the potential economic impact on the county the decision will have.

When asked does he think APEX would consider revisiting the issue following the moratorium, the ECDC director did not seem to think so.

“Why would they,” McCane said as he prepared to leave the meeting.

McCane seemed to have a glimmer of hope Thursday however.

According to the ECDC director, the APEX project manager Bob Probst said the company may seek to appeal the board’s Wednesday night decision.

Read more on this story in future editions of the Rushville Republican as information is made available.