NEW CASTLE – The Henry County Planning Commission approved a sub-committee Thursday that will go over the rules and regulations currently in place for industrial wind turbines. The proposed group will go before the Henry County Commissioners for final approval tonight.
Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs selected seven local residents to be on the committee who he felt represent different parties that should be involved in the wind electric conversion systems (WECS) conversation. The county commissioners called for the WECS ordinance review committee during their May meeting.
Jacobs based the committee on the one that was used to review Henry County’s confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) ordinance.
“I don’t expect this to go as long (as the CAFO process),” Jacobs said. “We have an ordinance in place. There are definitely some things that need changed. Obviously the main issue that everyone is going to focus on is the setback issue.”
All meetings of the WECS ordinance review committee will be open to the public, but they will not be open for public comments or questions. Jacobs said he plans to schedule at least one meeting for public testimony where residents can voice their concerns and offer solutions. He also hopes to invite subject matter experts to speak with the committee members. Jacobs chose Randy Jones and Steve Dugger from the planning commission to sit on the sub-committee. Dugger would also represent the Henry County Council. County commissioner Butch Baker was also selected because he does not have any direct conflict of interest with any of the proposed wind farm projects, Jacobs said.
The sub-committee also includes Harrison Township resident Rosalind Richey to represent people opposed to the wind farms and Katina Dishman, from Franklin Township, to represent people supporting the wind farms.
Jacobs said Richey and Dishman are both people who would be fair and listen to different opinions while reviewing the ordinances.
Richey addressed the planning commission Thursday and said “it’s absolutely necessary” to reevaluate the current ordinances and make new additions to the development code regarding wind turbines to ensure that “the rural nature of Henry County stays intact.”
“These are mandated to protect the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life here in Henry County,” Richey said.
Richey presented the county planners with a list of concerns with the current code, including a lack of maximum height and blade length standards and the need for language regarding protected lands and public parks.
For additional input on the review process, Jacobs placed New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy on the committee, along with Henry County Tourism Commissioner Steve Holmes.
“It would be hard-pressed for anyone to say that economic development is not a huge component of what we’re talking about. It has been from day one,” Jacobs said.
Holmes is also the Fall Creek Township Trustee and lives within the city limits of Middletown. This position puts him in the unique position of representing people who could be impacted by industrial wind farms without directly benefiting from the turbines himself.
County commissioner and planning commission board member Ed Yanos added that he thought that the people on the committee would give a fair hearing to all sides of the wind turbine issue.
“I personally think that we should have a 1,500 foot setback, there are some of you who don’t think that is adequate enough. I think all of those kinds of issues can be heard by this committee,” Yanos said. “I believe that Darrin (Jacobs) has got a list here that I cannot find any fault with.”
The review committee will bring their findings and recommendations to the planning commission. Any changes to the ordinance will need to be approved by the Henry County Commissioners before they can go into effect.
The Henry County Commissioners meet at 6 p.m. tonight at the county courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle.
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