The committee tasked with reviewing Henry County’s existing Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) ordinance met for the first time Thursday to allow committee members the opportunity to introduce themselves and map out an approach to how they intend to accomplish the work before them.
Henry County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs, who has no vote but is serving as the moderator for the group, explained the purpose of the committee’s first gathering.
“Tonight was just an organizational meeting to give committee members a chance to acclimate themselves to the process, receive some information and give me some indication about how they want to move forward with future meetings,” Jacobs said.
The committee consists of Randy Jones, representing the planning commission; county councilman Steve Dugger; Harrison Township resident Rosalind Richey; Franklin Township resident Katina Dishman; New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy; Fall Creek Township Advisory Board and Henry County Tourism Commission member Steve Holmes; Henry Township resident Cara Taylor and Jacobs.
Jacobs distributed a binder containing the existing WECS ordinance, letters he received from the public regarding their thoughts about wind farms in Henry County and other assorted documents related to wind turbines.
The group discussed various issues for an hour. During that time they decided Robert’s Rules of Order will be followed during future meetings. Also, that a unanimous vote on given issues won’t be necessary, but is hoped for on the final list of recommendations the committee will make to the Henry County Commissioners. The group also set a “soft” goal of having their work completed by the end of October, with the understanding it might take longer.
Committee member Richey also wanted to make the committee’s purpose clear to other committee members, as well as several members of the general public who were in attendance.
“From my perspective on this, some of this is not a pro or a con,” she said. “When we’re talking about the ordinance, we should not be debating about whether we should or should not have wind farms. Our purpose is to address what needs to be in our ordinance and that’s not a for or against. That’s numbers for setbacks or specific requirements for taking care of the roads, or how we should handle decommissioning, or some of the other things that currently are in the ordinance. Not a for or against.”
Other committee members did not disagree.
One of the major decisions made was about the next meeting, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 4) in the old circuit courtroom on the second floor of the Henry County Courthouse. That meeting will be devoted to hearing from the public.
Only those people who sign up to speak will be allowed to do so. Each speaker will be given a maximum of three minutes. The committee will decide at the end of the three allotted hours if additional speakers will be heard. Those speaking will be required to address their comments to the board and not other audience members. It was agreed the committee did not want the next meeting to “turn into a giant argument.”
The committee’s third meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 18 in the old circuit courtroom. Additional meetings beyond the that will be scheduled at a later date.
Following adjournment, Jacobs said he thought the first meeting of the WECS review committee was productive.
“I think it was a good meeting. We’ve set the tone and everyone seemed to be working well together. There was some good discussion, even on minor issues. Everyone seemed comfortable and free to speak their mind and I hope that continues,” Jacobs said.
“I thought it went real well,” he said. “It was just the first meeting, but we got organized and got some good information to look over.”
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