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Planning commission votes to hold public meeting on wind rules

The Henry County Planning Commission decided during last week’s meeting it will consider recommendations about wind turbine setbacks at a future meeting.

Some local residents are upset that wind turbines came up at the most recent meeting at all. The agenda for Thursday’s meeting contained end of the year business and did not include anything about turbines or county regulations about their construction.

Commission member Steve Dugger made a motion at the end of the meeting that would allow the planning commission to legally talk about changes to the local wind energy conversion system (WECS) ordinance.

“There actually was no discussion about wind,” said Henry County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs.

Jacobs pointed out that any member of the Henry County Planning Commission has the ability to bring a motion to the floor at any time, even if it is not on the agenda.

Once Dugger made the motion to amend the WECS ordinance, county attorney Sean Row stopped any of the commission members from discussing the merits of the ordinance or wind turbines in any way. These items were not on the posted agenda.

“No substantive discussion took place Thursday night,” Row said.

Row said that this was a “purely procedural” motion that had to be followed if the planning commission didn’t want to open itself up to legal challenges. The steps outlining how the commission goes about amending an ordinance are listed in Indiana Code 36-7-4-606.

Row explained that in order to change any ordinances, or even talk about changing the ordinance, the planning commission must first hold a public hearing.

At such a meeting, members of the public will be able to speak for or against the proposed changes, Row said. Representatives of government entities will also have a chance to publicly weigh in on any amendments before the planning commission makes their vote.

Row pointed out that the Henry County Planning Commission can also vote at the public hearing to modify the committee’s recommendations.

This is the same procedure that the Henry County Planning Commission would have to follow if they wanted to tweak the county comprehensive plan or add a rule that all voting members had to wear checkered suspenders to meetings.

The amendments in question are the end result of the WECS Committee Henry County set up this summer.

The WECS Committee voted in November to recommend the planning commission amend Henry County’s ordinance to state that industrial wind turbines be set no closer than 1.1 times the height of the tower from non-participating property lines and 1,250 feet from non-participating dwellings.

“There was no vote on that motion,” Jacobs said. “Nothing changed … Nothing has been decided.”

The only legal action that the planning commission could take was to vote on whether or not to conduct a public meeting about the amendments, Jacobs said.

The commission voted 5-4 to give president Steve Rust permission to schedule a public hearing about amendments to the WECS ordinance, with Mike Roach, Olene Veach, Randy Jones and Joe Mannis voting against. Jacobs said Rust has the discretion of when to schedule the public hearing.

If the vote had failed Thursday, the motion would have died on the floor.

The Courier-Times will publish the date of the upcoming public hearing as soon as it is available.