By a vote of 3 to 0, the Rush County Commissioners voted Tuesday to cease negotiations with Apex Clean Energy, the company looking to develop what is commonly referred to as the Flat Rock Wind Farm.
“(My vote) was basically due to opposition from the constituents in the county,” Rush County Commissioner Paul Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said he considered the benefits from the investment Apex was prepared to make “very heavily” but that he felt obliged to do what the people who put him in office wanted him to do.
“I think one of the problems we have in our country is that our elected officials don’t pay attention to their constituents and it’s kind of our philosophy that we do listen,” Wilkinson said.
The company’s original plan was to place approximately 65 wind turbines in Rush County, a roughly $200 million investment, and as many as 29 turbines in Henry County, an investment of nearly $100 million.
Apex is challenging a decision made by the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals that allowed for the placement of the turbines, but required a 2,300 foot setback from the nearest structures. The judicial appeal states Flat Rock Wind has 88 contracts in place with Rush County landowners to place 66 wind turbines.
“This development is very disappointing in light of Rush County having regulations regarding wind energy that were put in place several years ago, a mechanism to welcome that type of investment, and now apparently a vote by the county commissioners puts in jeopardy a potential $300 million investment,” New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy said regarding the Rush County decision.
Henry County Commissioner Ed Yanos also expressed his disappointment.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Yanos said. “I know they had a lot of pressure from their citizens in some corners of the county who opposed the project, but I felt like it was a fairly unobtrusive addition to the county that increased the tax base and that would have helped out the other tax payers by lowering their bills.”
Murphy said at this time it is unclear what the Rush County decision means for the future of the project.
Rob Propes, the project manager for Apex, was unavailable for comment.
Phone calls to Rush County Commissioners Mark Bacon and Bruce Levi were not returned.